It’s a sprint, not a marathon

Writing is all about careful crafting, but is that always the case? What about if you could get all your words down on the page and then start thinking about how they work?

No, this isn’t about life in general. Experience has told me that to get anywhere in that game really is a marathon; we’re in it for the long haul and have to take our time getting to the place we really want to be, mostly to ensure we actually really want to be there.

This post is about writing. Recently I have been doing a lot of thinking about the sort of writing I do, and the sort of writing that I want to do. Often, unfortunately, they aren’t exactly the same thing. For anyone who’s been reading this (or knows me) for a while, you will have read about my successful 2016 attempt at NaNo, and my rather more unsuccessful attempt in 2017 (it was not the best time, and all the planning in the world clearly wasn’t going to get that sucker written). I also write tv/movie-focused fanfiction, and have done now for 21 years (this month in fact) – my literature-based fanfiction is another story altogether, but I’m not getting into that now.

Anyway, I have a few unfinished stories that I would like to get written, and for years (about 10) I have been using the “sprint” method. Though many people encourage you to set aside a certain amount of time every day, carefully plot out what you want to write and then just sit at the keyboard to let the words happen (newsflash: sometimes they don’t!), I have decided to go down another road. The sprint.

I have some busy friends (yes, I have them), friends with kids, friends with jobs, friends with kids and jobs. For these friends, it’s difficult to set aside a few hours a day in which to write uninterrupted. One friend, in particular, loves to write, she’s writing a brilliant fanfiction (in a different fandom to any I have written, and one that I am not, and never have been, a part of), and she’s writing a lot. But she’s busy, she has three young children, a house to run, a full-time busy job, and a fair bit of to and fro to be done in a single day. The sprint is a perfect excuse to shut out the world however, it’s not for long, which works perfectly in a busy life.

It’s amazing the difference that 35-minutes can make to a piece of writing. On some (fruitful) days it can mean up to 1200 words to go over, edit and (possibly) add to. On other days it can still mean anything from 200 words (normally, realistically more). Okay, so they need editing, but that doesn’t mean that these words aren’t valuable.

I have found that when I stop over-thinking things, I stop piling pressure on myself, I start to relax, and I end up writing something that I can live with, work with, and eventually post out there for all to read.

I’m not saying the process works for everyone, it doesn’t. But if you’re a writer suffering from the demon known as writer’s block, and you have something you really want to get out of your system, why not give it a go. Set aside 35 minutes, get a drink, turn on the laptop (get out the typewriter, use a pen and paper), set the timer for 30 minutes, and on the click of ‘go’ just write. Ignore grammar, spelling and over-thinking it, just write!

It’s freeing. It’s therapeutic. It’s actually rather productive. Most of all though, it’s an unblocker!

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