Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How I Get Writing Done in a House Full of Crazy Rabid Monkeys AKA The Timer Method

Okay, okay. My kids aren't crazy. But they could be rabid. I mean, they have this strange fear of water which shows up right before dinner. (Because, you know, people or animals with rabies develop hydrophobia. Everyone knew that, right? Because...if not, well, then my attempt at a joke...uh...just falls kind of flat. Kind of like this part here. awkward.)

Ok. Moving on. So, I've wanted to get more writing done for ages. In the past I've set goals like these...

*Write 2 pages a day.
*Revise 5 pages a day. 
*Finish revising this blasted, dumb, idiotic novel by the end of the week!!!

And they just don't stick or work well. But it's weird that last one doesn't do the trick, right? 

Obviously, the big goals are too crazy to work. And the small goals are so tiny that I put them off until the last minute of the day when my eyes feel like someone poured rubber cement into them and then sprinkled glitter over top for good measure. So, then I rush through the two pages and call myself done. 

Yeah, probably not the best way to get stellar writing done. 

Then last week I stumbled across something that works for me. I call it...(wait for it)...

The Timer Method

I know. It's a great name. So...stirring and motivating. It took me ages to name it. 

Step #1: Ok. Grab a timer. (I know. You didn't see that first step coming.) I take my Ipod and go to the timer setting. 

Step #2: Decide how much time you want to write that day. Is it 15 minutes? A half an hour? I suggest a bigger chunk. Possibly...

Wow. Wouldn't that be awesome if I wrote for 5 hours and 16 minutes a day? 

*a dream sequence flashes through Erin's mind...starving kids rummaging through the cupboards for chocolate chips and marshmallows, little boys wearing plaid shorts and striped shirts together to school, the bag of blow pops found and eaten in ten minutes by the wee one, the toilet plunger used to aggravate little sisters, all the rolls of masking tape and duct tape used in a series of pranks, such as taping all the light switches down, all the rocks from the garden brought into the bathroom for a long soak in the tub, children attempting to walk on the weird plant shelf that runs across our living room and kitchen, science experiments involving the gas stove*

Ok. Maybe not. 

I better stick with the 2 hours or 1 1/2 hours I've been trying. 

Step #3: Whenever you get a chance, plop your rear in front of your laptop or computer, start your timer  and write. Maybe it's ten minutes while your little ones are in the bath or five minutes on your lunch break or those twenty minutes you run away to the bathroom, lock the door and stuff in the ear plugs. (Um...not that I do that.) 

Step #4: Repeat Step #3 until you've written for the allotted time that day. 

Step #5: Go to bed. Wake up the next day and set your timer again.

And there you have it. By doing this, I'm finally seeing real progress on this revision. No more weeks passing by and only finding time to jot down a few ideas of what I want to do to the story. Or getting a measly page or two revised. Or only making the time to write on one afternoon of the week. 

This is forcing me to see how much time I need to find in my day to write and where I can fit it into the cracks of my crazy life. I try to get about half of the writing time done during nap time and then the rest I finish up after the rabid monkeys are all in bed. But some days are tricky. I have to do ten minutes here and ten minutes there. 

I want to be a writer. And more importantly, I want to be a really really great writer. And my previous methods of only writing a teeny tiny amount every day or trying to catch up with my writing time all in one day, were not working. At all. 

Does anyone else use The Timer Method to keep themselves writing? And do you have a snazzier name for it? Or do you have a different approach that works for you? I'd love to hear about it. 


  1. Funny- I just posted on Monday on our blog about a different timer method:

  2. Great post Erin, I thought I had a method, but I was wrong, still can't find anything that works for me, but will now be trying the Mechanical Countdown Apple Number Thingy Method!

  3. Great post. I force myself to write during my toddler's nap. So . . . she's my timer. : ) Also, I recently made a weekly guideline to reach my goals: submit on Mon. Critiques on Tues. PB's on Wed. and Thursday-Sat. is devoted to my novel in progress. I don't always stick to this, but it is helping me get a lot more done.

  4. I look up to anyone who can sit down and immediately get into writing for 10 minute spurts. I just can't do that. By the time I get in the "zone", the 10 minutes is long since over. I need time to warm up...which is probably why I'm so slow at writing. My goal lately has been to just write everyday (except Sundays) for at least an hour. It's not much but it's usually all I can do. One day a week I dedicate to writing and I'll put in 3 hours. Sadly, sometimes I get more written in one hour than those 3.

    If I'm not in the mood to write and I still need to get that hour in, then I'll do an old trick I read about that works every time. I sit down to write but I don't go to the end where I'm working, I just pick any page in the middle of my manuscript and start reading. EVERY time I will end up revising something and before I know it...I'm writing and I'm in the mood to write.

    Glad you found a method that works for you. Stick with it.


  5. Timers totally work for me which is why I love write or die so much. It times you in a very scary way (by deleting your words if you stop writing) really boosts productivity!

  6. I do this and I love it! I like to do thirty minutes (from whatever time is it when I finally close down Twitter...) and then I get a five minute break to cram in as much internetting and snacking as possible. It's so much easier to break the time down, and when I know I've got some "free time" coming up it stops me getting distracted during the actual writing time. Finally something that works!

  7. Great post! I saw the title and had to jump over and read it. I write well to word counts in drafting mode, but the timer method might be just what I need for revising. I hope it keep working for you