I spent seven days working on my writing process. My goal was to let go of word counts for a week and delve into creativity and flow. Instead of writing sprints, I aimed for ninety-minute sessions “in the zone.”
First I had to figure out how to get that creativity and flow going.
Duh: Do more of those things that help me get into the zone, and less of those things that don’t.
To get into the zone, I did less of:
- Junk food
- Keeping my cell phone nearby (thus using energy to ignore the shiny object, ignore the shiny object, ignore the shiny object)
- National news outlets (depressing, aggravating)
- Surfing the Internet
- Late night munching
- Cleaning too much (yes, there is such a thing)
- Lazing too long on the sofa and getting stiff
- Unproductive, busy work
- Caffeinated tea or coffee after 3pm
- Being a hermit
- Writing sprints (I know, I know, but . . . )
- Staying up too late
And I did more of:
- Adequate sleep
- Keeping my work area(s) decluttered
- Ignoring word counts, not even looking at words produced until the end of the week
- Healthy food
- Love n kisses<3
- Indulging in earned rewards
- Staying warm so I wouldn’t be distracted by zombie fingers
- Giving back
- Doggy love
- Studying the craft of writing
- Spending time in front of my envision board
- Binaural beats
- Attending my writing group
- Keeping writing-process activities front and center of attention by posting them on my white board (instead of posting the usual word count or editing goals)
- Writing in areas conducive to long, focused work
- Keeping alerts off my computer
- Keeping my phone silenced and out of sight in another room
- Checking my posture in my chair (slouching just makes me achy and want to leave my desk)
- Going to bed on time
- Stretching or foam rolling
- Longer writing sessions (60 to 90 minutes)
- Checking my mindset to make sure I’m chill and not in a perfectionist mood
- Mindful eating habits
- Reading for fun
- Getting outside
How’d I do?
Over the week, I spent the same amount of time on writing as usual (20 hours), and 5.5 of those hours were not writing at all but either studying the craft or evaluating work in my writing group.
I gasped when I saw the word count for my process week.
I tallied up the words again. No mistake: I had doubled my output by focusing on the process of writing rather than just turning out words. In 14.5 hours of actual writing, I produced 10,500 words instead of my normal 5,500.
I learned three biggies:
- The library is a great place to write when you’re sleepy. It has good lighting and firm chairs, and library patrons would think you’re odd if you fell asleep, so you try really hard to stay awake!
- The coffee shop is a terrible place to write. The visual distraction is too much with people walking around and the door swinging open and shut. There are also distracting food smells and chatter, plus it’s expensive.
- Yes, it is possible to get into the zone when writing. The work flows, and 90 minutes goes by in a flash. This flow state didn’t happen every time I sat down to write, but most of the time it did when my surroundings and mindset were good.
We’re all unique, so what works for me might not work for the next writer. But if you’re struggling with your word count, and pushing your writing sprints isn’t helping, try focusing on your process instead and see if that helps.