Sprinting

I’ve been trying to incorporate writing sprints into my day. If you haven’t heard of them, (and you want to write more with your limited time) I encourage you to google them. If you’re a social person (my introverted-ness is side-eyeing you) then there are websites that offer writing sprint competitions, via minimalist text boxes, and covert profiles and all of your work can be saved. Of course, twitter is doing them as well, if you’re good at things like twitter.

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And since I’m a private person who gets up early even to get the house to myself, I just sprint on my own. I haven’t necessarily found a specific time yet, but I never select a time any more than 25 minutes.

That’s right, twenty five minutes.

I’ll assume, you’re thinking the same thing I was. What the hell can be accomplished in 25 minutes? (or sometimes 15…)

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Seriously. As soon as I set that timer, the first thing I feel is ‘I only waste 15 minutes if this is a flop.’ And that’s what always paralyzes me when I sit down with an hour or more to write. I’m always wondering if I have chosen wisely. An extra hour of sleep is pretty tempting to not waste versus an hour of self-deprecating stalemate in a writing project.

But 15 minutes? That’s literally nothing to me. I can wait 15 minutes in line before I consider whether or not I’m in the wrong line. I can drive the wrong direction for 15 minutes before I realize I need to turn around. I can be 15 minutes late or early and not have a panic attack.

And as you would hope, guess what usually happens after my timer goes off in 15 minutes? I keep going.

Now the first few times I sprint-wrote, I probably averaged 300-400 words. And they were all crap. (I ranted about dealing with unemployment during a pandemic). HOWEVER, the next time I sprinted, it was in a rough draft of a novel (my romance) and not only did I hammer out 600 words, but something else happened. I sprint-wrote in the morning before I left for work, so I had to stop after 17 minutes. Then I commuted an hour, and the whole time my brain was still firing on the ideas I was able to get out during that sprint. I didn’t get to dive right back in and keep writing. My mind was forced to hold it all, and flip it over, and try different things.

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The way I see it, is at some point I was paralyzed by some sort of “schedule” I was imposing on myself. For example, I would write from 10 am to 12 pm, uninterrupted, and then pat myself on the back and go on to other things. As I mentioned before, if I didn’t feel productive in those two hours, I would give my self such a hard time about having wasted two hours. All of this just piled on top of me already thinking I wasn’t any good, and didn’t have good ideas. At some point, I dreaded those two hours. I didn’t want to put myself through it, and I chose to sleep instead (or pace my yard smoking cigarettes) but deep down I knew I was just scared of failing (wasting time.)

And to move this back on topic, writing sprints have this way of removing that pressure. They let you test the waters ( hey, if you don’t feel it in 15 minutes, go outside or try something else. you only wasted 15 minutes.) And if you get a few minutes into it, and suddenly your fingers are flying and your mind is pushing this thought train at a precarious, sloppy speed through snowy mountains and you love it…then you just turn off the timer and keep going!

The other day, I gave my self 25 minutes, and I think I turned it into (almost) an hour and came out with 1200 words. And that was at about 7pm. A time that I have literally never been able to write. I’m always tired in the evening and trying to convince myself I’m too young to fall asleep that early and all I want to do is lay in bed and watch the Office, again.

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But that leads me to my next point. Now that I know I can make 15 minutes useful, painlessly. I write all the time. I write when I’m in the drive through. I write when I stay in the car while my husband pumps gas. All the time that I previously used waiting is now used writing. Say traffic is bad, that’s fine. I’ll write. It’s exhilarating.

Side note: I also use that time to revise. You can safely assume, that all my writing when done in sprints is riddled with grammatical errors and auto-correct gold-nuggets, but going back and fixing those things is easy because the hard part is already done: getting the ideas down. Also, even just returning to something after time has passed is something I never gave myself before. When I spent two hard hours writing, it was so difficult to come back and criticize my own work because I knew what I had invested.

Now when I write in sprints, I go back in to edit and I just slash and cut all the shit out. I’m like blade.

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Which feels like putting the ball back in my court, or holding all the power, or fuck, it just feel like having a good day. And right now, that’s really the most we can ask for, is a good day. I’m probably not finishing a novel any faster than I was before, but I am enjoying it and feeling good about my progress.

So, there.

All that to say, writing sprints is a new club I’m happily in. It lets me show up when I want, leave when I want, and sometimes it’s asks me to come to parties, even though it knows I’m going to say no. And in the end, that’s a real life symbiotic mutual relationship.

And, are you registered to vote?


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