Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Using An Egg Timer For Writing

When my children were small, every writing minute counted and I was quite ruthless about getting on with it when I had the opportunity. Now my time is less regimented by the school run, and I have a tendency to let the minutes and hours drift away.

It's been a couple of weeks now since I brushed the dust off my Swiss Army Egg Timer (not nearly as iconic as their penknife) and began to use it regularly. First and foremost, I use it to limit my on-line time. I can't say I've been particularly disciplined - I have a habit of setting it for 15 minutes, then when the time runs out, setting it for another 15 minutes - but the theory is sound, and I'm more aware about how much time I can spend on-line.

As well as using it to limit on-line time, and time spent on domestic chores, I've been using the egg timer for writing. I've been having concentrated bursts of just writing anything down connected with the book, such as ten minutes on what the main character is wearing right now or what her bedroom looks like. I may never use the information, but writing it down is triggering other ideas and thoughts, and I'm sure it will add to the depth of my descriptions. And hey, it's only ten minutes.

I've also been using the timer for my main writing. I find I have random pockets of time, perhaps half an hour before I have to go out. Before my egg timer I would faff around, perhaps doing something domestic or grabbing a cup of tea, or randomly looking at stuff on line. With my egg timer I now sit down and write, knowing that I'm against the clock. It's surprising how much you can get done in half an hour, and how those half hours add up.

It's the great cliche - I'd write a novel if I only had the time. Well, most of us do have the time if we limit all the other stuff. And I'm find my trusty Swiss Army Egg Timer a useful tool to help me do just that.


Jen Black said...

I must go and purchase an egg timer and keep it in my study! Sounds a great idea, because it is so easy to think one is doing the right thing in Facebooking, blogging, etc.and yet at the end of the day, how much writing have I done? Not a lot!

Jim Murdoch said...

There are, of course, a number of online tools that a writer can use. My problem with a physical egg timer is that I’d forget to look at it, either that or be distracted by it. For me, a timer with an alarm is a much better idea. I like this one but there are more here (scroll down for the list).

Jo said...

This blog post has come at an opportune moment for me! I fritter away lots of time on stupid things like Facebook. The only time I've used a timer in the past is when I've done writing exercises. Now I will use it for adding bits to my novel, even if it is only a physical description. Hey, it's only 10 minutes, after all!

Philip C James said...

A good idea, especially if you find it good to work to a tight deadline.

I find that can be a two-edged sword. Yes, the adrenaline rush helps focus the mind on writing, but I sometimes wonder if over time it has conditioned me to perform only when under pressure.

Still, as the beep of the timer's a self-imposed not an externally imposed deadline that is probably less of an issue.

I've just checked out my ipod. It has a timer feature on it, so I think I'll set that to 30mins and see how it goes (wanna bet I spend the first 29 minutes deciding which is the best tune to be played after the interval has elapsed! Oh we are so spoilt for choice...)

Sarah Duncan said...

There are lots of tools to use, even one that will cut out your internet completely after a set time and lock you out which I think would be b****y annoying.

Good luck with whichever method you use!

Giles Diggle said...

Interesting idea. I use Scrivener as my word processor & project planner. Its Project Target window is an invaluable tool which gives me a daily word count target that counts down in real time - a little like a mileometer - and a project deadline target. It also RAG rates my progress (Red, Amber Green).

Sarah Duncan said...

Giles, I've heard lots of other people recommend Scrivener so I know it's popular but RAG rating my writing would give me mega stress levels. Horses for courses, as ever. I'll stick with an egg timer.