Short Writing Bursts: The Freedom to Write Less

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Happy woman jumping

A couple of months ago, I did a post for Fuel Your Writing called 7 Writing Distractions I’m Kissing Goodbye.

In it, I referenced Freedom, a computer application that helps you focus on a given task by blocking your internet connection for a specified period of time. I suggested the application might be the thing to help me procrastinate less and write more.

Since then, I downloaded Freedom and have used it at nearly every one of my writing sessions.

Experimenting with Time

I began by setting the timer to 60 minutes, thinking I’d aim big and write a lot. But as soon as my connection was down, I found myself uninspired, and there were moments during that hour when I needed the internet. It was distracting knowing I couldn’t access it.

Though I knew the block was ultimately for my own good, I found the commitment to that amount of time too long.

Next, I tried 30 minute blocks. They weren’t so bad–just enough time to really get into the writing. But again, still a significant wait if you need to look something up, or if you ordinarily look to the internet for inspiration.

The Freedom to Write Less

More recently, I’ve started what I’ve affectionately named, “My Freedom 15, ” a short, but highly focused writing session.

It seems to work particularly well when you’re not feeling particularly motivated to write anything. I personally find it more motivating to tell myself I only have to write for 15 minutes than to say I must write for an hour.

At the end of the Freedom 15, I take a minute or two to look up anything important, then reset the application for another short writing burst.

This morning I wrote more than 1300 words in an hour–a very high number for me. But instead of doing it in a solid 60-minute chunk, I used four 15-minute bursts.

Although I never go into these short sessions with the obligation to do several in a row, I get so involved that I don’t want to stop.

The Right Combination

Everyone is different, and this might not work for you. Perhaps you find 15 minutes isn’t enough to get going, or you might get too distracted if you get back on the internet at all during that time. You might need a bit longer. Then again, perhaps you’d like to go even shorter.

Freedom (or a similar application) allows you to choose how long you write without distractions, so you can personalize your sessions to suit your own needs.

For Mac users, this is your lucky day: there’s a freeware version available here. For Windows users (or Mac users wanting the full version), there is a $10 fee for the application.

Have you tried this or something similar? Has it helped or hindered your writing?

Are you more productive when you set your mind to a long session, or when you break up your writing into shorter bursts?

Please note: I’m not an affiliate for Freedom. I currently use the free version for Mac.

{ 4 comments }

Anonymous May 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Twitter was my potential downfall. All other internet distractions I could cope with, or do while letting my brain mull over possibilities. But Twitter had something new and delicious all the time, moment by moment. I’d switch on my computer in the morning, get engrossed and before I knew it half an hour had gone. So I got Hootsuite – I can set aside a certain time of the evening to catch up and set up scheduled tweets to appear throughout the next day, so that when I get up and go to my computer I can concentrate on my work. I might look at Twitter a few times during the day, but I’m so engrossed in my WIP that I’m not distracted by it.

Suzannah May 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Twitter can definitely be distracting! I’m going to try Hootsuite now that you’ve recommended it. Was using Twuffer a bit to scheduled tweets, but I found the program a bit clunky. It didn’t have a built-in URL shortener, which was annoying.

Adam Di Stefano May 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Hey Suzannah – that’s actually how I’ve been using Freedom. I set it for 15 minutes, and go.

My slight mods to the process are that I also use Bean as writing software (gotta love freeware) in full screen mode – so I can’t be distracted by anything on my computer. It’s as close to using my typewriter as I can get.

At the end of the 15 minutes, I usually, just keep going because then I’m in the flow, and don’t bother stopping to reset the timer. I’ve gotten a few hour-long sessions in this way, but other times I’ve also gotten only the exact 15 minutes out of it. That’s just how the flow goes.

Either way, I’m almost guaranteed to get at least 500 words out of the process.

Suzannah May 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Adam, I use Scrivener’s full-screen mode to block out the rest of the screen as well.. Haven’t heard of Bean, but it sounds like a good alternative. Thanks!

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