Think Short to Reach Your Long Nonfiction Writing Goal

racing clockOften writers don’t get their writing finished because they don’t start. They don’t start because their projects feel too intimidating, too large, too big, too long. Whether it’s an article or a book you want to write, you may sense that even if you type your way across the starting line, you won’t have the stamina to continuing typing all the way across the finish line.

You can, indeed, complete your project if you thing short instead of long. Work and write in short spurts. This has proven an effective strategy for many writers, athletes, and for people in a variety of industries.

Sprint to the End of Your Project

To train for a long-distance run or bicycle ride, you might do sprints. These short bursts of exercise get you in shape to travel a longer distance or perform over a longer period of time, such as in a marathon or the Tour de France.

When it comes to writing, however, each “writing sprint” gets you closer and closer to the finish line while also giving you the training to sit and write for longer periods. It creates a writing routine, like an exercise routine, and a writing ritual.

When I would do sprints on my bicycle, I’d find a hill that would take me just 20 minutes to ascend. I’d ride at 75% of my ability up the first third, at 85% of my ability up the second third, and at 100% or more of my ability up the last third. This would help me ride up several-mile-long hills.

Runners run full out during a sprint for the whole stretch, however long that might be. Some push themselves hardest as they cross the finish line. They might do numerous sprints during a training period to build up endurance for a longer run.

To complete a writing sprint, write non-stop for 10 to 30 minutes. Set a timer, and don’t stop typing during that time. Write as fast as you can during the time period. Or start slowly and build speed! You can go back and edit later; in fact, no editing is allowed during the sprint. Schedule several sprints per hour, such as four 10-minute sprints. If you like, spend the rest of the hour editing your work.

Behave like an athlete in training. Create a schedule. Get up early, and eat a good breakfast. Turn off and shut out all distractions. Then complete an exercise, or training, session consisting of several sprints in a given time period. Stop for 15 minutes and have a break and a protein snack if necessary. Then train for another period of time (doing sprints). Or schedule one training session each day.

Get More Done with Short Deadlines

If thinking about exercise turns you off, you can write in short amounts of time using The Pomodoro Technique. This time-management philosophy is meant to allow you to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue and more mental focus.

The process is simple and not that different from a writing sprint. For each writing project, budget your time into 25-minute increments. When you complete the 25 minutes, take a five-minute break and do something different. After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time), you then allow yourself a 15-20 minute break.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro,” named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo, the originator of this technique, named the method after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he originally used.

The frequent breaks imposed by The Pomodoro Technique are supposed to keep your mind fresh and focused. Plus, the imposed deadline is supposed to help you write your project faster because the timer, or time periods, spurs you to complete more in less time. I know that when I realize I have just 30 minutes, for example, to get something done, I work a lot faster and in a more focused manner. That’s the basic idea of this technique.

Chunk It Down

Although the timer and time periods definitely help, sometimes seeing your project in short chunks makes a difference, too. That’s why so many writers have found blogging a book works well for them. If you chunk down your article or book manuscript into smaller pieces, it will feel less intimidating and more doable. Organize it into 300-500-word pieces, and then you can write each one in less than an hour. After all, that’s just one or two pages for each small bit of your manuscript. If you write fast using one of the techniques above, you can churn out one or two pages during a sprint or a pomodoro.

Have you tried any of these techniques and found that they helped you get moving and stay moving with your writing project? Or have you used some other method?

Image credit: higyou / 123RF Stock Photo

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