Thursday, January 3, 2013

Time's Up!

Nothing like New Year’s to remind you of time. The figure of Father Time – replete with an hourglass and scythe – is seen frequently in advertisements and political cartoons on this side of the holiday season, as are the flying pages of a calendar or a countdown clock.

Time is one of the most important tools of a writer’s trade. It’s up there with a keyboard and monitor or writing implement and paper. Or should I say “measured time” is one of the most important tools? If it was not for deadlines, I don’t think I would finish many projects. And by “finish,” I mean walk away from a project and turn to a different one.

That’s the beauty of a timed writing exercise. Set the timer for any amount of minutes (not sure I have ever used hours) and I’m guaranteed to get click-clacking away on the computer. Timed writing is wonderful for not only getting the job at hand to the finish line but also for brainstorming new projects and ideas to pitch.

Here's what I usually do: Make a reasonable estimate on how long a task should take. I try to break down an assignment into chunks, such as outline, research, quotes from sources, and the like. Then, I set the timer accordingly and away I go. Usually I finish before the timer goes off, but if I don't, that's OK. I either continue to the finish line without the timer, reset the timer, or schedule it for another day.

It’s such a simple and effective tool. This is my New Year’s resolution – do more timed writings.

At left is my trusty phone that has a convenient timer. I also use a kitchen timer sometimes. I prefer something with an audible alarm, unlike an hourglas, but nothing too jolting, like a fire alarm.