Writing like a FlyBaby

This is my office timer and, I suspect, home to Inspiration. (At least, she seems to come out more when I use this timer.)

I’m a flybaby.

For the past few years, I’ve been fluttering on and off with the FlyLady system for managing my home, my office and my life. I’m slowly, very slowly, getting better at it.

One technique that I’ve found very helpful for breaking through writer’s block is the use of a timer. Two or three freewrites of five minutes each, during which I’m brainstorming and writing as fast as I can go, generally gives me enough decent pathways that I can get back to work and expect steady progress.

My timer is a small white kitchen timer, a digital one that beeps when the time is up or can be used a stopwatch if I just want to keep track of how long one particular thought can carry me.

I was slightly surprised to discover I’m not the only writer who seems to think this way. Recently I discovered an online article by freelance writer Laura Spencer detailing sixteen things writers can do in five minutes. That article can be found at freelancefolder.

Freewriting for just five minutes a day has also helped me break through times of discouragement. Focusing that hard on one thing for just a few minutes seems to make it easier to focus on other things, as well. Celebrating for five minutes after forty five minutes or so of five-minute bits of progress breaks up the sadness completely.

Here are my favorite five-minute tasks:

  • Read a picture book to my toddler
  • Sit in a sunny window and drink a glass of lemon water while I muse on the plot for a particular story or the outline for an article
  • Review my goals and dreams (I keep them in a binder that I call ‘My Big Red Book’). Doing this every day before I start work not only keeps me focused, it helps me relax when deadlines get close. It’s as simple as remembering I have a plan, and that the plan I have is workable.
  • Call my Mom–we never have to talk long, but the brief connection with someone who always loves me is well worth the effort.
  • Water my office plants
  • Go outside, get the mail from the mailbox and sort it in the fresh air. Anything I don’t need can go right into the garbage bin before I go back into the house.
  • take out the trash–it’s still all about the sunshine and the fresh air and stretching my legs on the sidewalk for a pace or two.

I use FlyLady’s decluttering system in my home office, too. It’s most useful with the paperwork that piles up so easily. I’ve read in several FlyLady e-mails that you can do anything for fifteen minutes. For me, fifteen minutes spent filing papers and throwing away trash is time well spent.

One other technique that’s particularly helpful for me is using a pattern of activity with a timer to keep me on track. For example, the day after a deadline usually means I have to catch up on tasks that I’ve let slide a little bit. On these days, I may do paperwork for fifteen or twenty minutes, write a little, play with my baby, write a little, do some housework, write a little, and then repeat the entire process. I keep tally marks for the fifteen or twenty minute periods when I’m actually working so that when I get back into the flow of things, I have an idea of how many billable hours I worked.

Granted, these days aren’t as productive as my ordinary work days, but they’re better than looking around wondering where to start. This technique has worked for me when other methods haven’t.

When you have writing to do and can’t seem to get going, these things matter.

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