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Boot camp for writers

I love sharing stories about writers who make time to write despite busy, stressful and overscheduled lives. I wonder what people complained about generations ago—being bored (like my kids, if they only knew how good they have it now)?

I’ve written about this topic before, and this piece from author Judy Christie via Writers Digest cracked me up because I just think it’s so relatable. We all struggle sometimes to motivate when there are so many distractions, and I’ve never actually timed how much of each day I spend working versus other stuff, some of which constitutes work and some of which certainly does not. Setting a timer and doing it boot camp style sounds so over the top, but in a good way. No pain, no gain!

So, take the advice, writers and get to writing, in whatever way feels right for you. Personally, I want to hire Judy Christie to set me on track and get that timer ringing in my ear. I wonder how long it would take me to get into shape!

What do you do to quantify your time spent writing? And what do you consider to be a successful day? Most people don’t set kitchen timers, I’d bet, but I hope a few of you will give it a try and let me know how it goes. I bet you’ll be a lot more productive for it.

6 Responses to Boot camp for writers

  1. I don’t quantify the amount of time I spend writing, just the number of words. A good day is 1000 words. A really good day is much more than that. I feel like if I timed it, I’d end up punishing myself if I spent less time one day, even if my word count was phenomenal.

    I have in the past timed the amount of time I spend doing leisure activities, if I feel they’re getting out of hand. It’s much easier for me to change my habit if I can look down and say, “I’ve spent HOW LONG fooling around on the Internet/watching TV/whatever?!”

  2. Michael Peck says:

    I, too, do word count over time spent writing. Scrivener, which is an absolute godsend to writers (and no, I have no financial interest in the software), allows you to keep a window open with your goals for the overall project and your current session, and colored bars turn from red to green as you make progress.

    I’ve found that an odd mental trick works with word count, too. My real goal is at least 1000 words, but I set the session goal at only 500. So rather than glancing at the colored bar and feeling the pressure to make it turn green, it does so when I’m halfway through, and the rest flows more easily because it’s all gravy from there, so I’m looser. As a result, I average more like 1500 words per session.

    All’s fair in hitting your goals, I find, even if involves duping yourself. Whatever moves things forward.

  3. Joelle says:

    About three years ago, I finally got my dream desk…a treadmill desk! Now I write and walk at the same time. What I discovered is how little actual writing I do in a day! The timer on the treadmill does not lie. Usually, it’s only about 60-120 minutes a day, even though it takes me most of the day to do it! Even after 3 years I can’t quite figure that out. :-) I reckon it’s the food breaks because the treadmill makes me hungry. Yeah, that’s it. Still, if I walk/write somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2-4 miles (at 2mph), then I’ve had very good writing day.

  4. James Fabris says:

    For me, 1000 words of fiction is a good writing day. 500 words is not bad either. I find if have a good idea, I can do 500 words in a couple of hours. Then I can go about the rest of my day and do whatever it is I have to do to earn a buck or to get my daughter to her ballet class.

    If you have a family and work, and not a lot of time, it is better to consistently write 500 words a day, or even 250, than it is to sit down and try to write 10 or 15 pages all in one shot. Months could go by before you have the time to write that much in one sitting again. By then you will have forgotten where you were, so you will have a hard time getting started again.

    If you stop after 500 words, and you still have more to say, you can sit down the next day, and it will still be fresh. The words will flow.

  5. Kellie Lovegrove says:

    Wow, everyone has such good strategies. I feel like a slacker. Honestly, I don’t have a set amount of time or a word count goal. My goal is to simply make the time to write everyday. If I have the time to write, I sit down and do it. I can’t count the times that I’ve stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning because I didn’t have the time before midnight to get anything done. Even if I don’t feel inspired to create something new I go back and edit scenes I’ve already written.

    I should really crack down on myself and set an actual word count goal, I think I like that one better than the kitchen timer. That’s it, I’ve put it out there for the entire world to see. No turning back now. :)

  6. D.C. DaCosta says:

    First, thanks to James and Kristin, above, for their comments, which are especially useful. I prefer to write with the wireless turned OFF so as not to be tempted to check email, etc..
    I try to aim for two full hours a day, but working by the clock isn’t really my style. And I’d rather go for 12 hours straight, but “life” intervenes.
    I’ve thought about doing it a la P.G. Wodehouse, who sat at the typewriter from 9:00 until about 4:00 nearly every day, as if at a paying job. (Of course, in his case it WAS a paying job.) He wrote to an outline, though, which I find limiting, although I have achieved a word count of 1,000 per hour when using an outline. It just seems to suck the life out of the process, though…

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