April 14, 2011

Just 10 Minutes

Recently I mentioned how easily distracted I am. Also, I like ice cream. Was that a squirrel?

I frequently find it a struggle to start writing and stay writing. One very effective, very stupid technique I use to stay focused is a timer set for a small amount of time, like 10 or 15 minutes. While that timer is counting down, I'm not allowed to do anything except write. No switching to a window other than the document I'm typing in. No getting up from my desk. Just writing.

A timer isn't any kind of deterrent, and there's no good reason that a countdown should overpower my usual distractibility, but it works. Every time, my silly little brain falls for the trick of "Oh, come on, you can do it for just 10 minutes!" While the timer runs, I write and rarely try to do anything else, and if my attention does stray, I remember and switch back into writing. At the beep, I'm often on a roll and immediately reset the timer, or I'll take my brief earned break and then quickly return to writing. Getting started is always the hardest part.

Earlier this week, psychologist David Rasch spoke to my writing club about writer's block and procrastination. Everything he talked about was painfully familiar. He discussed a number of possible causes of and cures for avoiding writing, and it was a great presentation. His overall message was one I already know too well: One way or the other, you just have to make yourself write.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Beyond the Margins contributor Kathy Crowley interviews Steve Almond and Jane Roper on humor: "So it's not so much about the word or object itself, but how it’s used. A subtly incongruous word or detail, carefully placed, can make all the difference. The only exception is the word 'underpants,' which is funny no matter what."

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