#IWSG Really Small Bite Writing

iwsgI broke out of hospital last Sunday, but having now researched into my surgery and recovery more (previously I played ostrich on the event) I have discovered that of all the medical procedures out there, I appear to have happened upon the one that provides a legitimate excuse for actually not writing.

Yes, really.

Nevertheless, I’m giving it a shot, starting with this blog post – done in very small chunks.

One week after the actual surgery, I am recovering well compared to many women, but I also have doctor’s orders to “not do anything”. For weeks. He wrote the phrase down, so I couldn’t play ostrich on that one.

This is the first time I have little choice but to not play superwoman, and actually follow instructions. I can’t sit up for longer than ten minutes, and can’t lift objects heavier than a couple of pounds. There are bouts of pain and tiredness that leave me in no confusion as to who’s in charge – and it’s not me.

Enough with that.

The upshot is that I can’t sit for longer than ten minutes at my writing desk without the pain becoming unbearable – and lying prostrate on my bed and resting is a good thing, but not with an incredibly heavy laptop parked on top of body parts I really don’t want objects near. I have an iPAD, but it’s not the best for functional typing (excellent for e-reading and other tasks below).

Walluh, and plausible excuse for not writing. Or typing, at least.

This is my one chance at a good recovery, so I need a workaround.

Working in Small Bites

tomato_timer1_thumb.jpgI’ve previously discussed the Pomodoro technique – which breaks tasks down into 20 minute slots, and formulates these with a timer (traditionally a tomato).

Kristi Holl recently wrote a blog post on 20 minute slices – Chop! Chop! Writing in 20-Minute Slices. There are some good examples of 20 minute tasks for fiction writers, and other writing tasks such as –

  • Revise (or tighten) opening
  • Read one blog post and leave a comment
  • Write physical character description of mother (examples chosen randomly – read Kristi’s full post from the link above).

The post suggests that a list of such tasks be split out into areas such as “outlining steps, “creative steps” like thinking of character and setting names, mechanical steps (e.g. write opening paragraph), revision steps, and marketing steps”. Which makes good sense.

I’m confined to creating tasks I can accomplish in a shorter space of time. Ten minutes goes by quickly, but my energy (and pain) levels are pretty random at the moment, so I sometimes have a little more time to finish off tasks, and many in my own list can be put down and picked up again later. Nah, I don’t use a timer. I go with the flow.

For those aware of me being back online – confirming comments on this blog, some social media stuff – it may appear somewhat random – which it is at this point.

But here is my own growing list of writing tasks I am attempting when I feel up to it. These fit approximately into ten minute spots:

Ten Minute Writing Tasks (Personal List)

Blog and Other Social Media
  • Write this blog post and publish (several 10 minute chunks, over several days)
  • Facebook Like reciprocations
  • Read twitter stream
  • Read other blog posts (via Feedly) and Buffer (several 10 minute chunks)
  • Email wrangling
Reading Tasks

Note: despite all my dreams about using a hospital stay to read a lot, this didn’t eventuate. I was just too fuzzy-headed for most of the time, unable to get to my reading glasses, and kept busy with nurses turning up every hour for blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, other tests and the pimping of medicinal aides and drugs.

  • Read what you want. Enjoy it. Fiction / non-fiction books
  • Couple of mags to browse through
  • Blog posts
Writing Tasks

Some examples relevant to my current project(s) :

  • Character exercises – purse/bag/carry around, journal, second dimension (background)
  • Transfer revision notes to relevant scene cards.
  • Rewrite / reassess specific scenes
  • Write 500 words first flash fict

eat_the_elephant2Obviously, my list is much longer than this, and I will admit that even writing out such a list of so many tasks, no longer how small, sometimes makes it look “too much”. I’m not a person who gets on well with written to-do lists, and checking off dones, so having a long list works as more of a demotivator than a productivity enhancer.

But, as I said, I’m going with the flow, and tackling tasks as they appeal.

Writing is possible in very small chunks. What other methods do you use to inspire your own writing productivity?

10 thoughts on “#IWSG Really Small Bite Writing

  1. I have just begun to use the Pomodoro technique – and loved it! Instead of saying ‘Right, I must sit and write for an hour and a half’ I set my (digital) timer for 29 minutes and start typing, knowing that I will be granted a break soon, very soon. Usually when the tweeting birds (or whatever gentle alarm I have selected) begin their song I invariably protest with ‘Aw, just another couple of minutes – please!’
    The reason for the digital timer is simple; I can have it on the desktop of my netbook, which I carry everywhere, plus the ticking of a mechanical tomato isn’t distracting me.
    I cannot recommend this writing method highly enough!

    1. Glad you enjoy this – the breaks in between the promodoros are important for our future health. When back to better health, I’ll be using those breaks for some walking (and thinking)

      1. I sympathise. Perhaps you will be able to track improvements in your health when you can set that timer for fifteen minutes or even twenty.

        My back injury tells me that I shouldn’t sit in hard chairs or recline on beds for more than thirty minutes. Unfortunately my Muse keeps putting her hand over the mouth of my common sense and whispers ‘Pay no attention, keep writing.’ Not a good conflict when one is stuck in a hotel room with only a bed and a hard chair…

  2. Best of luck and health to you. Wishing you a speedy recovery! Another small bite could also be, writing a short story on the back of a card 🙂

  3. I love this idea. I’m struggling with health problems at the moment, particularly fatigue. I have read other writing advice saying the best way to start is write for an hour a day – on anything you want, but for at least an hour. After a few days it was tiring me out so much I stopped looking forward to it, and eventually I gave up. Twenty minutes seems a more manageable target – I will try to give it a go!

    Wishing you a speedy recovery x

    1. Kate, it’s been over a week since this post, and I am recovering / growing stronger everyday. My sitting up / writing time is now much longer.

      What I would like to point out is that an average writer can write out 250 words in around 20 minutes time – if done every day, that’s over 90,000 words in a year – or a novel! Write, and nevermind the quality – that’s for the revision phase.

      And if we can find more time (take a break, refresh, then spend another 20 minutes on writing) then imagine how many writing projects can get done over the year in small chunks.

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