Get Those Words Out! Writing When Time is Short

Get Those Words Out

One struggle I always have as a writer is some days, it’s just really hard to sit down and write out my personal daily quota. Either I don’t have time, or I’m lacking motivation, or I get to the end of the day and realize that everything else took my time and writing just didn’t happen. Does this ever happen to you?

These are the moments where I’m most susceptible to feeling like a failure. I didn’t fit in my quota, or I didn’t do big work on my book or my blog. These are also the moments where I have to remind myself of the most important thing I tell myself as a writer: Every little step will lead me to where I ultimately want to be. Don’t forget this, friends. Every little step will you to where you ultimately want to be. As long as you do something every single day, you’re making progress, whether it’s fleshing out a character, testing your conversation writing skills, editing a whole chapter in your book, or just writing a response to a random prompt for five minutes because that’s all you have time for. As long as we engage ourselves and write something, no matter what it is, we’ve done what we need to do to keep moving forward to our dreams.

But here’s where practicality kicks in: what do you write when you only have fifteen minutes? Ten minutes? Five minutes?

There is an abundance of resources out there to help get the writing juices flowing if you only know where to look. These are my top three tried and true exercises for when I’m short on time.

#1: Writing Sprints

If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo, then you know the joys and hurdles of writing sprints. Basically, you set a timer for a specific amount of time, and once it starts you write and write and write and keep writing until the buzzer rings! The goal here isn’t to write incredible prose, or well-fleshed out characters, or even something comprehensible. Your goal here is to stumble through and write a scene, a short story, a setting, a conversation, as fast as you can, as many words as you can. Yes, it’s hard. But some of my favorite parts of my first book in my Elvan Footsteps series came from these writing sprints. They needed a bit of time at the spa to really get impressive, but the heart was there.

#2: Writing Prompts

I love, love, love writing prompts. Some of my best work came from me browsing willy-nilly on Pinterest looking for inspiration and writing the first thing that came to mind. There are so many places to find prompts; it all depends on how hard you want to look. Pinterest is a wellspring of writing prompts. Just search “writing prompts” and you’ll have enough ideas to last your entire life.

There are several good books full of writing prompts out there too. One my favorites if 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. Every time I flip through the pages, I find some inspiration to whip out.

You can even glean inspiration from other sources. Grab a magazine or a newspaper, find a headline or pull quote and write a story inspired by what you find. Set a timer for yourself and see what you can write.

#3: Pen to Paper

It must be an unspoken rule that most writers carry a small notebook and pen with them wherever they go. Normally you’d use your little notebook to write down plot ideas, book title ideas, etc. But here’s a thought: use it to actually write! When you’re on the bus commuting to and from work, when you’re waiting for a meeting to start or waiting to pick up the kids from school. Instead of just scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, make use of that time and do a bit of writing.

Since you’ll only have a few minutes, do something that is an easy, breezy exercise. These are some of my favorites and I have them written on the inside cover of my little notebook to remind myself to write when I have a bit of spare time.

  • Write down everything you hear for three minutes
  • Write down a conversation you’re overhearing
  • Write down the exact details of a memory
  • Flesh out a small piece of a fantasy world of my own
  • Describe what you can see right in front of you
  • Describe an object near you in colors and shapes only

I’d love to hear what exercises you try!

#4: Prepare for Future Time Crunches

This is a fun one. Set yourself up for success and create seven new writing prompts. Keep them in that small notebook that you have with you, so you’re never without some form of inspiration.  Then if you ever lack an idea, you already have an arsenal of original writing prompts that you came up with. And off you can go, writing away!

What do you do when you don’t have much time to write? I’d love to hear in the comments!



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