Tag Archives: Planning

Busy? Break Your Writing Projects Into Small Chunks

I have a confession: this blog has been going strong for 3+ years and lately, because the other editor (Mel) and I have been really, really busy, we haven’t been posting nearly as often as we used to.

That’s because writing takes time, and with her new gig as a publisher (everyone say CONGRATULATIONS to her, by the way) and my 5-6 academic jobs (and I’m not exaggerating there!), we’re fairly low on time between the two of us.

Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and - wait, I don't have time to write poetry!
Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and – wait, I don’t have time to write poetry!

Today I was helping a student plot out a large paper assignment and the advice I gave him is the advice I need to follow myself and that I recommend anyone without a lot of time and a penchant for writing follow: break down your writing assignment into small, digestible chunks you can finish in about a half-hour every night.

I know that sounds pretty easy, but being able to judge your own ability to get a task done isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips that’ll help make the process easier.

1. Planning should be sessions 1-3, at the least. Planning takes time, and sometimes people feel that if they aren’t at a keyboard typing, they aren’t getting any work done and that simply isn’t true. You’re going to need to start planning before you can really start doing anything else.

This is What a 30 Minute Writing Exercise Looks Like

I was about to sit down and start working on a post about the benefits of writing exercises. Doing a simple free write, one that’s about 30 minutes, can vastly improve a writer’s work on multiple levels.

First, it helps generate ideas. Free writing is writing without stopping for a set amount of time. You find you have to keep going. It’s not easy, but if you pause, you’re supposed to just repeat the last word you’ve typed until a new thought pops into your head. Head. Head. Like that. This way, your brain and your brain storming are always working in one direction – forward.

Second, it gets you in the mood to write. Mood is a big thing with writers. We call it writer’s block, we call it Netflix being more appealing, but what it really is is a lack of want to write. Forcing yourself to write anything for 30 minutes or so, nonstop, gets your brain ready and raring to continue the writing process. A free write is a great way of beating writer’s block by not only generating ideas, but by changing your off mode into an on mode when it comes to getting your fingers on the keys.

Third, and yes, this is a pretty repetitive list because I am timing myself and trying to get this all out, out, out, out, out, out, is it gets your body in a physical place to write as well. I type fast, but even I don’t come pre-warmed up on the keyboard. Doing a 30 minute free write helps get my brain in keyboard mode so I can type up a storm. Sometimes, when I get really into what I’m writing, I can go up to 80-100 words per minute. Of course, there are still typos. I never said I was exempt from typos.

There are more benefits that I will come back to, possibly, if I recall them and time doesn’t run out, but I’d like to talk about why I’m illustrating what my 30 minute free write on the topic of 30 minute free writes. I think a lot of us hear about free writing in class or in a tutoring program like the one I work for, but we don’t really put them into use, or we do them for class because we are required to and never think about it again.

And, honestly, how many of us really sit there and repeat words when we’re stuck? We pause. We think. I’m forcing myself to follow the rules laid out in general for a free write so there will be some repeats here, but when I do this on my own I often won’t follow this rule, and I know it. But I should follow this rule because it’s there for a reason. Sometimes when your mind blanks and your fingers are on the keys typing “out, out, out,” a new thought pops into your head based on your previous writing. This is a good thing, go with it.

Free writes (and if you’re counting, this would be fourth) are also great for making connections within your writing that you might not even be aware that you are making. I repeated the word “out, out, out” above not just to illustrate one of my own repetitions in this exercise, but to show that I associated that pause in thought to the thought that came after it – while I was going “out, out, out” my mind settled on the physical body for my next statement. This means I was thinking not just out, but outward, the outside, out of my own head. That’s a comma splice, I think.