You know how you can sit down to write, and everything just falls into place? Your focus is perfect, and nothing can keep your fingers from dancing across the keyboard as you rack up an amazing word count?
Yeah, I don’t know that feeling either.
If you do, though, and you have the writing focus of an Olympian athlete, please comment on this post and tell me all your secrets. I promise to try them out.
For me, I struggle to sit down and write stories. It’s my greatest writing weakness and an absolute motivation killer. I have no problem focusing on other things. I can crank out a 1,000 word blog post in half an hour without developing the sudden urge to get up, pour more tea, do the dishes, check my to-do list, let the dog outside… you get the idea.
That is why, for the rest of 2021, I am running an experiment on myself, and I’m inviting you to join along. I am testing 9 of the most common writing strategies I’ve seen floating around the writing community to help build writing fluency.
But before I could begin the experiment, I need a baseline. So on Saturday, April 3rd, I sat down after my morning tea and set a timer for 30 minutes to see how much I could write and how often I got distracted.
I thought it would be easy. After all, I was well-rested since I slept nearly the entire day before, and I had already warmed up by revising and posting a blog post without getting distracted or my attention wavering. I felt on top of my writing game, and it felt like cheating to take a baseline on such a good day.
Oh, how very wrong I was.
I set a timer for 30 minutes and sat down to write a brand new scene in Dragontouched, the novel I’ve been working on. I’m an outliner, so I did start with a bullet-point list of what structurally needs to happen in the scene, but I didn’t have any kind of clear direction of how it was actually supposed to look, and I didn’t use any kind of writing strategy, such as a warm up or a focus app, to help me.
The results? I wrote 347 words in those 30 minutes, and I had at least 16 distractions, and I think that number’s actually a bit low. I distracted myself, on average, every 1.5 minutes.
(For comparison, it took me 10 minutes to write 400 words for this blog post directly after, and that included a tea refill.)
Here’s a rundown of went through my brain during my 30 minute writing session:
- 2 minutes: I don’t know what to write!!!
- 3 minutes: I need more tea. *gets more tea.*
- 4 minutes: I should put my plate in the sink. Oh, and since I’m up, I should let the dog out.
- 5 minutes: Now is a really good time to check off my morning to-do list.
- 8 minutes: I don’t like what I’m writing in this scene. I need to take notes on how to revise it.
- 9 minutes: Aw, look at how cute Hadley is running around outside! She’s so happy!
- 10 minutes: *lets Hadley back inside*
- 14 minutes: More revision notes on how to fix the scene I’m currently writing…
- 16 minutes: What am I going to eat for lunch?
- 17 minutes: Oh, I know how to start my blog post for this! *takes notes on that*
- 19 minutes: Is this experiment over with yet?
- 20 minutes: *stares off into space thinking about blog post*
- 21 minutes: *gets more tea*
- 24 minutes: MORE revision notes on how to fix the scene I’m currently writing…
- 25 minutes: How many words do I have? *checks* That’s IT?! UGH.
- 27 minutes: Okay, I have the intro to this scene, but where do I go from here? What’s supposed to happen next? *checks outline*
- 28 minutes: Oh yeah, but I don’t know how to write that…
Seeing how much my brain jumped around and all the ways I so skillfully distracted myself, it’s no wonder I was ready to quit not even 20 minutes into the writing session.
Writing is supposed to be something fun, not something that I count down the minutes until it’s over. It’s also not a focus or energy issue, as I was able to write more words without distraction or frustration for a blog post directly after the baseline. So that means that in order for me to become a better writer and write a novel faster, I need to build that specific writing muscle.
So for the next 9 months, join me as I test a different writing strategy once a month to see which strategies are just an unhelpful writing myth and which ones actually help to write faster.