Twenty Minutes

I participated in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival this year, and it was great fun. I loved the support, the encouragement, and the motivation. But the best part? The chat roompintip sprints.

Here’s how it worked: you showed up at the chat room at a designated time, where a Ruby sister was moderating. After a few minutes of chatting, the moderator announced the beginning of a sprint (usually twenty or twenty-five minutes). Everyone worked furiously. At the end of the sprint, the moderator called time. More chatting. Rinse and repeat.

It was amazing how much work I could accomplish when I knew other people were doing the same thing. Moreover, writing can feel like a lonely, solitary endeavor… but the Ruby chat room sprints made me feel like the other writers and I were part of the same team. Like we were doing something together.

Sadly, the WWF is over now, but it’s taught me a very important writing tool that I can use the rest of the year: the twenty-minute sprint.

This tool is especially useful when I’m battling writer’s block. I set my timer and give myself a pep talk. It’s just twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is nothing. You can do almost anything for twenty minutes. Just write for twenty minutes, and then you can take a break/check your email/make some tea. Go!

It works every time. (Well, almost every time.) Although that first session may not be particularly productive, I usually feel more amenable to another session when the alarm beeps. And then another. And another.

Before I know it, I’ve made considerable progress on the scene, which makes me even more motivated to continue.

For me, writing can be a vicious or a rewarding cycle. The more I write, the more I want to write. The more time that has passed since I’ve written, the harder it is to get started. The key, then, is simply starting. The twenty-minute sprint helps me get past that hump. It forces me to write that first word or first sentence or first paragraph.

So thank you, Rubies, for teaching me this valuable trick!

What about you? What tools or tricks do you have for busting writer’s block? I’d love to hear your techniques. Let’s face it: I need all the help I can get. 😉

19 thoughts on “Twenty Minutes

  1. Thank you for sharing Pintip! I had never thought of using sprints as a way to bust through writer’s block, but that’s brilliant! Thank you for sharing Pintip! I’m so glad you had a positive experience with the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival. 🙂

    1. Thanks Dana! Have you ever tried the WWF? Maybe you should join me next year! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

      1. I have not tried the WWF, but I will keep it in mind for next year. You can fill me in tomorrow on all the details. Can’t wait to see you!

  2. Hi, Pintip! I’m so happy to hear the RSSWWF gave you a writing tool that you can use over and over again. You really can do a lot in 20 uninterrupted minutes. We had a discussion a few days ago about writing to a deadline and it made me realise I work best when it’s do-or-die time.

    As for busting through writers block, a couple of techniques have helped me in the past. One, I write a page about *anything* — I don’t worry if it has nothing to do with the WIP and I don’t edit. It’s just a warm-up exercise. Two, I write in longhand — for some reason, this really kick-starts my brain.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks Vanessa! Those are great suggestions! I will keep them in mind. I saw the writing-to-deadline discussion, and while I love setting deadlines and goals as a way to motivate myself, and while I’ve produced some of my best work in that crazed around-the-clock frenzy…. I *do not* like the pressure. I would much rather be leisurely and consistent and take my time to get it right. Problem is, it’s hard to sustain. While the writing to deadline phase is much more condensed — usually around three weeks for me.

      Does this mean we need to set some deadlines for each other? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Vanessa! Always lovely to see you in the lagoon!

    1. I agree that music can be very motivating! And it’s very smart to listen to music without lyrics!

  3. The RSS Winter Writing Festival is wonderful. I’m not at all biased as a Ruby Sister 😉 But if you’re looking for that same feeling of writing and chatting, you might try the hashtag #1K1HR on Twitter. There are almost always other writers out there looking for someone to do an hour-long sprint. It’s not quite as chatty as the Ruby Sister chat room, but it’s the same idea. I can’t tell you how productive I am when I get on Twitter and look for friends to sprint with.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Hope! And no, you’re not at all biased. 🙂 There were many times, during the festival, where the chat room sprints kicked me into gear, where I would’ve otherwise had an unproductive day. I’m already looking forward to next year! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Hi Pintip Mermaid! Awesome post to help us all get in gear and write, write, write! I enjoy sprints too but I try to only hop in on one every now and then. Like you, I also tend to prefer writing at my own pace without the pressure. That being said, this is a great way to bust out of writers block. Other things I do to battle that pesky issue are listening to favorite playlists set to specific moods, (“Man Songs” and “Dark Mood Writing”) Or sometimes I draw a picture of a character. See you very soon!!!

    1. The thing is, Carlene, (and maybe I wasn’t clear about this above) but I don’t even need anyone to sprint with. I just set the timer for myself and go! That way, I can do a twenty-minute sprint anytime I want, late at night, early in the morning, at kids’ swim lessons, etc. I’ve recently started listening to playlists, as well, in particular when I’m driving somewhere. I may not be able to write then, but at least I’m thinking about or feeling the story! As for drawing pictures… Do stick figures count? Lol.
      Thanks for stopping by, Carlene, and I’m so excited to see you!

  5. Oh wow, thanks for sharing about your conservatory practice, Diana! That is very enlightening. I agree that it is also fun to do with a friend — feel free to hit me up if you want to do any sprints!

    1. Oh, I’ve heard of that! (But haven’t tried it yet.) The screen starts flashing at you if you don’t keep adding new words, and you can even set it to delete your words if you don’t continue to write. Do I have that right? I love all these little devices we use to trick ourselves! Thanks for stopping by, Gail!

  6. Awesome, Pintip! I was honored (and humbled) in the SavvyAuthors Entangled Nano last year. Same concept, similar results. CTRWA’s FB page calls a sprint regularly, and welcomes all — but there is always a break at 9pm for the digital singalong!


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