Friday, April 22, 2016

The Joy of Writing Fast

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Lately, I've been all about finding the joy in writing. It's not that I'd lost it necessarily--cause I've been there too and that's no fun. It's just that, sometimes, oftentimes, I take myself too seriously. I take my writing too seriously. 

I talked about this a bit last week, but I think our writing should DO SOMETHING for us personally. Yes, we often write for others or so that readers can be part of the adventure, but there is so much in the day-to-day life of a writer that can weigh you down if you don't make it a practice to find joy in the practice of writing words.

SO! Today, I thought I'd be very honest with you. The idea of sitting down in front of a computer for hours on end--occasionally--sounds miserable. Sometimes I'm totally game. Sometimes those moments are peace and solace and escape.

But often, if I've been in my writing cave for several days in a row, I'm zonked. My brain shuts down and the most exciting part of the work day is just how many words I can type before I have to pee again.

Seriously.

This is a glamorous life we're living, people.

Every now and then, I need a little pick-me-up. This week I found it while sprinting with my friends.

Have you ever tried word sprinting? Word wars are similar, though in sprinting you set the timer for a very short amount of time--say fifteen minutes--and you just write.

All sprinters have their own systems. Some stop for edits, most don't. Most leave typos alone, intent on getting in as many words as they possibly can in the time set, but there are no hard and fast rules. The goal here is to inject some spice into the writing day.

And I want to tell you, IT'S FUN! 

A few reasons why you should write fast:

Writing fast will help you knock out a bunch of words in a short amount of time. There's nothing quite like starting your writing session with a quick 400 words under your belt. You sit down in front of the screen, set a timer for fifteen minutes and BAM! That thing you'd been dreading all day, the writing of words, has begun. Maybe you take a little break and come back in a half hour for another fifteen minute session. I wonder how many of those it would take to get you to 1k words. What about 2k words?  

Writing fast will move your story forward. This is probably my favorite reason right here. Sometimes I dread my writing time cause I'm stuck. Not really, really stuck. Not stuck enough to call it blocked, but stuck enough that it makes my "want to" sad. But fifteen minutes of hard and fast sprinting and you're likely up and over that hump in minutes. And before you know it, you're making decisions about the scene following the one that had you so screwed up. 

Writing fast means depending on first thoughts. I've talked about this before, but Natalie Goldberg hit on something golden when she addressed the concept of "first thoughts" in her book Writing Down the Bones. It's the idea that when you sit down to your writing, unique, powerful things happen when you let your hand move over the page unhindered. When you don't stop to adjust or edit. When you let the instinctual part of yourself write the scene. 

I know it sounds ooey-gooey, and maybe it is, but we're all writers--it's not a stretch to believe something magical happens when we let our imaginations take the wheel for a while. Sprinting is often nothing but first thoughts and I've found, looking back, that the portions of my stories I love best were often written in this way.

Writing fast strengthens your writing muscle. I had lunch with a writer friend a while back and we were both going through a rough spell with our writing. We're both young moms with kids running around and calendars that had more words on them than our manuscripts. Over soup and salad she said to me, "I just don't have the writing stamina I used to have." I agreed with her wholeheartedly. 

Our schedules had crept in and we'd lost the ability to sit for long periods of time and write. When we did have the time to commit to an entire day of writing, we just didn't have the energy or the endurance to make it through. 

But these short fifteen minute writing sessions can help build up that writing muscle. Bursts of coerced creativity work out those tired fingers and wake up sleepy imaginations. Before long, you'll find the stamina you lost somewhere along the way. I've lost and found mine several times, so trust me.

Writing fast is fun. And this is it, isn't it? The reason we tell stories. Or at least part of the reason. Somewhere along the way we get stuffy about it, and we need a little something different to remind us that this job of ours, this hobby, this pastime, should be enjoyable. 

You can certainly sprint all by yourself. I do it to start my day on occasion. But it's also a great way to include others in your writing. One day this week, I sprinted on and off for several hours with friends from all over the country. It was totally spontaneous--someone suggested it on Twitter--and before I knew it, there were a bunch of us racing to get words in. After fifteen minutes, we'd post our word count, take a half hour break and dive in again.
I wrote more words that day than any other day this week. I adore the scenes I completed and the quick, fast-fire dialogue that I got on the page. All of it will have to be edited, but I know the shape of the scene now and all because I wrote in short bursts of creativity.

And I had fun doing it.

Tell me, have you tried sprinting? How do you use fast bursts of creativity in your writing sessions? 
If you don't, would you consider giving it a go?

32 comments:

  1. I really want to try this! I struggle a lot with perfectionism, so I'm hoping this will break that block down.

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    1. This is a great way to tackle that perfectionism!

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  2. I want to give this a try too. I'm not a mother, but I've noticed my writing stamina has dropped somewhat due to my schedule as well. Maybe this will help me get it back up again. Wonderfully timed post, Mrs. Dittemore! :)

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    1. Give it a go! I'd love to hear if it works for you!

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  3. I have tried sprinting occasionally (mostly when it's required for a word crawl), but it's not my favorite thing in the world . . . though maybe that's because I write by hand and so can't usually get that far in fifteen minutes. A hundred, maybe two hundred words is about the best I can do. (And yes, it's better than nothing, but . . . Eh. If I know I'm not going to get that much anyway, it's hard to convince myself to try hard.)
    In general, I prefer word wars (which give the competition edge I need to get writing fast) and word crawls (which help me write for long streaks by breaking those streaks up into smaller goals).

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    1. Word wars are also stellar! Anything to keep it lively and get us writing, I say!

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  4. Writing fast definitely helps a lot sometimes! Especially those times that I have all these ideas for a scene and I just want to get them down and not worry about how they look. It's always a mess, but at least I've written it and it's there to come back to later. :)

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    1. Yes! That's right. We can always come back later.

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  5. As one of the people who joined in that spontaneous word sprint, it was awesome! I'm writing book 4 in my series, and for 6 months it has been dragging. Yesterday, I wrote more in a few writing segments than I have in a long time.

    I didn't realize, until I had several books out, how crushing it can feel sometimes to have fans waiting for the next book. At times, it is exciting and encouraging, but others, when the writing isn't working and you feel like the book won't live up to their expectations, it can be terrifying. Word warring helped me forget about that pressure for a little bit and just write.

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    1. Hey there, Tricia! Nice to see you over here! It can feel very heavy to have folks waiting. I understand entirely. That's one of the reasons I MUST keep writing fun.

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  6. I am definitely going to try this! I have a hard time getting words on paper, so maybe setting a time limit for myself will help!

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  7. I love sprinting! Speaking of which, any plans to do a word war anytime soon?

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    1. I think that's a very good question. I'll get with the girls and we'll see what the calendar looks like.

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  8. Word sprints are the best thing in the world. It is amazing how much you can get done, simply by timing yourself! I also love word wars and my new favorite is word crawls, which often incorporate sprinting or word wars.

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  9. I haven't tried word sprinting before, but that's an awesome idea. I'm definitely going to try that once I start writing my first draft. :) Have a great day!

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  10. Thanks for this post, Mrs. Dittemore! I love word warring and do sometimes set a timer for myself, but I often get hung up in editing as I write. Thanks for this reminder that I need to just let the words flow. :)

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    1. Me too! Editing while I draft can slow me down immensely. I am constantly working on it.

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  11. great idea! I've been thinking about doing it. Wanting to...but holding back. I'm going to try it! Thank you~~~~

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    1. Hey Julie! Nice to see you over here. When you do try, holler at me on Twitter and I'll try to write with you. I'm best during mid-morning, Pacific.

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  12. I have something yummy to eat, maybe go outside then I try to write 300 ish words. My average pace is 500 words an hour if I focus

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  13. I just finished a word sprint and I am still in the mood to keep going!!! This works amazingly well compared to my other strategy which was: Write when you feel like writing.

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    1. Write when you feel like writing is awesome but a tad idealistic. I will never, ever get done if I do that. But I hear you. Give this a try. Let me know how it goes.

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  14. It’s amazing in support of me to truly have a web site that is valuable meant for my knowledge.

    writingdeal.com

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  15. Extra report! I tried word sprinting and got from 21,640 to 24,000 in three sessions!
    I am a new convert.

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  16. I've done sprinting while doing National Novel Writing Month, and I've always been amazing how many words I can get down (my best is about 1,000 in fifteen minutes--HOW?)! I've never really integrated it into my regular writing routine, however, so I think I will start taking your advice. Thank you very much for this fun post!

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