Microburst Writing Sprints

Several people in one place or another have expressed some interest in knowing more about what I call writing in microbursts, so I thought I’d write a post about it.  Now my meteorologist husband would immediately say that these were misnamed because a microburst is actually “an intense, localized downdraft of air that spreads on the ground, causing rapid changes in wind direction and speed; a localized downburst” (dictionary.com).  But in my mind it means short, intense bursts of–something.  In this case writing.

How this works for me is that during my workday, I take 5 minutes out of every hour (minutes I would have been probably wasting on Twitter or email or any number of other internet distractions), I set a timer for that 5 minutes, and I simply write.  If I need to, I will turn everything else off to avoid distractions.  But I write.  There’s no time allowed for my internal editor Naomi to pop up and put in her two cents about what’s being put on the screen.  There’s no room for self-doubt.  Microburst writing is all about letting the words spew out.  They may be good.  They may not.  That’s not the point.  The point is to get words on the page.  Once you have those words on the page, you can edit them later when you have more time an attention to give.  It’s really a first draft kind of method, as I can’t imagine revising in microbursts.

You may be saying “but I can’t get but a few words down in only five minutes!  What’s the point?”  The point is that every little bit adds up.  On a normal day, I usually manage 6-7 bursts–that’s a total of 30-35 minutes by 5PM.  I typically manage in the vicinity of 100 words per burst, sometimes more.  That means that on average, I usually have anywhere between 500 words (which is usually my daily goal) and 1000 words (which is my Yippee Skippy Hurray! goal).  Which is, surprisingly, usually how many words I manage when I’ve been slaving for hours.  And I have found that as I get used to it, I tend to be more productive and have more of those over 500 words days.  In a life as busy as mine, microbursts are far more efficient.  Compared to those writers who do this for a living or who manage to churn out 2k+ a day, this maybe doesn’t sound like much.  But again, it all adds up.  That’s the whole premise behind Holly Lisle’s Write A Book With Me Challenge.  You can’t think about those 2k+ people.  They don’t have your life.  Microbursts are about fitting writing into a busy schedule, whether that’s juggling it between responsibilities at an office or during naptime of your small child.  It’s a way of making writing a priority in such a way that it doesn’t mean permanently ignoring your job/family/responsibilities.

Now life has a way of interfering.  Very often I don’t get my full 6-7 bursts in.  I’ll either have real work I can’t stop doing right that second, my sprint will get interrupted, I’ll get stuck in a meeting–there are any number of things that can interrupt.  That’s life.  I don’t let it discourage me.  I shoot for a minimum of 4 bursts a day.  Just 20 minutes.  Smokers spend more time than that on smoke breaks over the course of the whole day and nobody seems to bat an eye at that personal time, so why can’t you take that time for writing?  It’s far less hazerdous to your health.

Give yourself a work week to try it.  Just 5 days.  See what you can do with it.  I’m betting you’ll surprise yourself.

If you’re interested in doing the microburst thing, let me know in comments.  I’m absolutely willing to make up a badge you can use on your blog and give you a place to report in every day to share your progress.  Who knows?  Maybe it will become a thing.

11 thoughts on “Microburst Writing Sprints

  1. I’m loving this post! My creative writing instructor called that a free write. The only rule being you can’t let your pencil stop moving for the entire five minutes. You have to write something even if it’s, “I don’t know what to write.” over and over again.

    I used that tactic in my noveling blog, Uninvoked, to help me get past some of the tougher points. The rough draft of it is complete now, and my main characters Amy and Bernard have been put through quite a lot in those five minute bursts. (I usually entertain myself by doing something horrible to my characters in those little bursts. I’m sure they hate them.)

  2. I’ve been stealing 10 minute blocks of time from The Paying Job for a little while now. While I can sometimes only get 500-700 words in 20 minutes, it’s still a lot more writing than I could do before. I don’t force myself to not stop writing, though, as I’ve somehow managed to get my internal editor to agree to only critique some things.

    Editor: “That sentence does not say what you want it to, and you know it.”
    Me: “Okay, you’ve got 30 seconds and ONE rewrite to make it better.”

  3. Like Uninvoked, I think this is a great technique to get past particularly difficult patches of writing. I’ve found that even if I end up chucking what I write in one of these microbursts, I may have gained new insight into one of the characters or carved out a new idea along the way.

    1. Oh I wouldn’t expect the WRITING to go up on a blog somewhere. Too many hinky issues relating to first publication rights and such. Just the word count report was what I was talking about.

  4. I’m going to try this, starting tomorrow. Not that I don’t write at work anyways, but it seems like a great way to “balance” writing with other responsibilities and maybe get more writing done than normal.

    I’m not brave enough to post an icon on my blog though…something I’d prefer to keep mostly to myself lest anyone take umbrage with it.

  5. Well I’d be up for giving it a mad dash. Maybe we could make a web ring of people who are trying it. ^^ Worst that can happen is we get some words but can’t use them, right?

    1. Quality isn’t the name of the game here. It’s all about butt in chair, getting words on paper–or screen as the case may be. Shall we do daily check ins?

  6. Absolutely going to give this a try, starting on Monday! It’s perfectly suited to my work schedule – as perfectly as anything can be, and can’t do anything but help. Thanks for sharing this idea.

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