In our last podcast Kel and I spoke about developing a writing schedule as part of our attempt to ‘get our shit together’. That’s a work in progress and we certainly don’t claim to be the masters (in fact just the opposite!) but we did throw around a few ideas on how we might do this.
- Scheduling daily (or frequent) writing sessions in your diary
- Working to a word count – possibly 300 words a day. Maybe 1000? Maybe 3000 if you’re on a roll
- Join our #300 words a day challenge and let us know how it goes for you
- Writing down your word tally each day so you can track your progress at the end of the week
- Having a writing buddy (thanks Rae) who can keep you accountable with daily messages or phone calls. Something subtle like ARE YOU WRITING?
- Letting go of the need to write something ‘perfect’ which is the easiest path to procrastination
- Having a dedicated writing space (that’s mine in the photo – aren’t I lucky?)
- Using blocker apps to keep you off the internet for a dedicated amount of time. Like Freedom which according to the blurb on its webpage is “the app and website blocker used by over 450,000 people to improve focus and productivity.” This post from the guardian lists a few more.
- For the times you just can’t get any writing done (yes, that’s you Kel) have a notebook handy and jot down any thoughts you have on you project so you stay in the dream of your story
- And, my personal favourite, the pomodoro technique.
The Pomo What?
Glad you asked.
It’s a time management tool developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. Basically it breaks your time up into intervals, usually 25 minutes in length separated by breaks of five minutes.
You set the timer for 25 minutes, write your heart out (which you can do now you’ve blocked those pesky Facebook messages and twitter notifications, oh and turned your phone off or at least silenced it), then stop when the bell rings. Stand up, stretch, make a cup of coffee, then sit down when the bell rings again and start your next 25 minutes session. After 4 sessions you get a longer break (half an hour) and then start again.
Why Does It Work?
It tricks your brain into thinking it’s not doing much. Because you know you’re only going to be there for 25 minutes you write faster and that annoying voice in your head telling you to find something else to do is easier to silence. Taking frequent breaks help keep you fresh, gives your eyes a rest, allows you to stretch those tight muscles and, most importantly gives you a chance to re-caffinate (or consume whatever your poison happens to be).
Once you start building up sessions and seeing your word count rise there’s not only inspiration but a subconscious challenge to keep going and finish your longer session by ticking off all those smaller intervals.
Here’s an example:
I sat down to write today and did all sorts of things to distract myself – checked Facebook, replied to an email, scrolled through twitter, and here’s an irony, spent half an hour downloading a pomodoro app because I couldn’t access my iTunes account! (You may be able to tell that I haven’t yet invested in an internet blocker.) Finally I gave my self a talking to, clicked on the now downloaded app and started writing. In five 25 minute sessions I managed to write 1818 words. Not earth shattering but better than the 895 I wrote in the same amount of time yesterday without the app.
You can do your own thing by using a timer on your phone, a portable times or an egg timer but there are plenty of apps out there, some of them free. Just google pomodoro technique or pomodoro app and you’ll find loads. I chose the Be Focused Pro app because it allows you to chart your progress which I thought I’d find motivating. That’s if I can work out how to do that part.
So those are just a few techniques for getting your butt in the chair and words on the page.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what gets you writing. Send us an email or connect with us on twitter or facebook
And happy writing.
This week we welcome Rae Cairns to the blog. We’re following Rae’s journey to publication on the podcast and we LOVE her debut novel The Good Mother. Here she tells us all about where the idea for the novel was born. You can read more about Rae on our Emerging Author Spotlight page.
I love a good ‘What if…’
Wherever I am, whether I’m driving, walking the dog or watching my kids play sport you can bet I’m daydreaming and asking myself – ‘What if…’ What if that waiter who just spilt the wine is actually an undercover detective? What if that suitcase over there has travelled worldwide, and carries the secret to one unsolved murder in each country it has passed through? What if the two elderly ladies having a fist fight at the shops yesterday (yes this really happened) were actually mothers who’d met in court, one the bereaved parent of the victim of a brutal crime, and the other the parent of the innocent accused now doing time? What if my sister rang me, screaming she’d just woken up in the boot of a moving car? (That What if has kicked off my next novel). Maybe it’s just me and I have a dark mind but I can’t remember a time where I didn’t ask ‘What if’. There was one however that wouldn’t leave me alone. For 15 years it lurked.
Back in the 1990’s, during the final years of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’, I worked in Belfast mentoring disadvantaged youth. While there, I briefly fell in love – that all consuming, passionate, I will change my life for you, young love. He wooed me with letters and dancing and sweet nothings in my ear. I was hooked. Then people around me began to let things slip. How he wasn’t who I thought he was, to be careful of his charming ways. All of this unsettled me and I began to delve deeper. When I uncovered my boyfriend’s close ties to a paramilitary organisation I confronted him and discovered much of what he’d told me about himself had been false. I immediately broke things off, and while I was heartbroken for a short while, I knew I’d dodged a bullet, so to speak. Upon my return to Australia I found myself questioning what would have happened if I hadn’t found out until much later about his paramilitary ties? After all, we been a couple for a few months, and he’d already been angling for us to live together. It shocked me that not one local friend or work colleague gave me a clear heads up, even knowing that the goal of my work in NI was to undermine the power of the paramilitaries. Had this been the reason he was with me? Or did he truly believe so strongly in his cause that he thought I’d come around?
Years later, once my children were settled at school, I began a creative writing course it was the 15 year old ‘What if’ that kept demanding to be explored – what if the relationship with my NI boyfriend had gone for longer, and he had exposed me to the underworld of Belfast more than I realised? What would happen if our paths crossed today? So I began to write. And the story evolved. I found new characters, and more primal threats and motivations. It became a very different manuscript from the one I’d started. While I did use some of my experiences from over there to springboard from, The Good Mother and Sarah’s story is a complete work of fiction.
Still, I will always be grateful to the What if that got me started.
Connect with Rae:
What a crazy week!
If you’re reading this you probably know that our very first podcast episode, Starting Out, launched this week. Coincidentally it dropped the day we got to visit the Mamamia podcast studio and watch the experts in action. And since Mia Freedman was the first person we actually interviewed (coming to you in September) this seemed very fitting. It was a huge relief and an amazing buzz to have our first episode out there for the world to hear. More than that, it was the culmination of six months of excitement, hard work, anxious why-are-we-doing-this moments, finger-crossing and celebrating.
Our first business meeting – at the Opera Bar.
Six months ago, after many chats about writing, women’s issues and life in general Kel posed the question: How about we start a podcast? Not knowing anything at all about podcasts I said yes! And there began a rollercoaster ride. Equipment buying, reading, daily phone calls, emailing potential guests and the occasional bit of stressing! Kel is the tech brain behind this whole enterprise. It’s been a massive learning curve for her, teaching herself how to record, mix, edit and upload our material.
From the very beginning it’s been an exercise in positivity. We dived in head first AND everyone we have approached so far has agreed to be interviewed. We wanted to put together a program that combines discussions about writing, women’s issues, and feminism. Now that the first episode is out we feel confident about our choices.
I’ve always been a massive believer in serendipity and this podcast is the perfect example of the magic that occurs when it happens. The best thing about writing, for me, has been the connections I’ve made with other writers, particularly women, and the inspiration we’ve given each other along the way. Connecting with Kel has brought me into the podcasting world. I know it will give us both the opportunity to meet and chat to dozens of writers and connect with our listeners.
Celebrating with a Margarita or two.
We know there are improvements we can make to our production and content. We’d love to hear from you. Please let us know via the Contact page here on the website, or via our Facebook page, what you’d like to hear on the show. Any guests you’d like us to add to our list? We want to have a wide variety of genres, opinions and personalities on the program.
In coming months we have Mia Freedman, Natasha Lester, Tracey Spicer, Pamela Freeman and Clementine Ford. We were so happy to have Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell as our first guests. If you haven’t listened yet click the link here on the website or head over to iTunes and subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!
And stay tuned to the blog for additional information on all our show segments: Mentoring Moments, Ask Pam (writing issues), Book to Brand (social media and marketing tips) and Room To Read. We’ll also be following Rae Cairns on her writing journey as she seeks publication for her page-turning psychological thriller.
(aka Pamela Cook)