How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour

RamonaGravitarIn October, I participated in a workshop series at the Havre de Grace, MD, public library on preparing for NaNoWriMo. A month of intense writing with a high word count goal can’t be undertaken willy-nilly. My talk covered the range from psychological pep talks, the mid-month slump, and learning to love your crock pot.

Writing for an hour a day may not require the extremes of November, but if you are carving out a new hour in your day, your daily schedule will shift. If you have the hour available without much pain to the rest of your life, great. Either way, today’s post will address how to best use the hour once you’ve found it.

Preparing for a Writing Hour

Yesterday, I asked “What is your most creative time of day?” In a perfect world, your writing hour would fall in this time. In an imperfect world, your writing hour will fall when it falls, and you will write during that hour because that is the time available.

Here are some considerations for making the most of the Writing Hour:

  1. Write at the same hour every day. Just as writing every day keeps the story in your head, writing at the same hour every day establishes a routine. If you have a specific time of day, every day, you, your family, your dog, your boss, will all know when the Writing Hour is approaching. I noted in yesterday’s post that a person is more likely to perform a task if they announce it to the world beforehand. Equally, a person is more likely to perform a task every day if they establish a routine. Same time, same place….
  2. Write in the same place every day. If you have to (or want to) leave home to write at a library, coffee shop, on your deck, this may not work for you. If you are a traveler, see comment #4. If you work at home, or if you must have research materials or notes handy, set up a writing station. I have a proper office devoted to my editing business (thank you, IRS deduction!) but when I write creatively, I use the desk in the guest bedroom. Writing in a particular spot is like writing at the same time: when you sit in this place, you write. Only that and only there. You’ll mentally kick into gear, because you are in your writing spot.
  3. writing hour deskCreate a useful but pleasing writing space. The photo here shows what I need–laptop, flash drive, note cards, writing journal–to create new words. I also include a bit of encouragement. For me, it’s revolving inspirational cards. What you don’t see is a comfy office chair with good back support and a footstool because I like to put my feet up. Do you have a particular place that is aesthetically pleasing? That is private or quiet? That is comfortable to your body? Whatever your writing needs or tastes, try to set up a particular spot—a writing desk, a corner of the dining room table, a spot in the basement–that is your Writing Hour space. Fill it with what you need to work, what you require for comfort, and what may perk or inspire you.
  4. Put together a writing bag. If you write in different places and/or need to get out of your home or office, make your Writing Hour easier by being organized. Get a bag that is used only for Writing Hour supplies. Put whatever you need for your Writing Hour into the bag: journal, pens, flash drives, note cards. Have it ready to go at all times so you don’t spend any valuable minutes of your writing hour searching for the last copy of your draft or an important revision note.

These are suggestions to help you set up, physically, for your Writing Hour. Next step? Mental prep.

Get your Brain in Gear for your Writing Hour

I am a lark, and proud of it. At 5:00 a.m., my brain is humming along, ready to go, and that is great. Unfortunately, my body is full of energy, too. It wants to walk, or unload the dishwasher, or go outside in my nightgown for the newspaper and wander around the yard noting what’s blooming in the garden or checking to see if the rabbits ate all my crocuses again.

What may be the most difficult part of Sprinting, and/or an uninterrupted Writing Hour, is retreating from the world. It takes discipline to check out of Facebook or Twitter or email, just as it takes a blind eye to ignore the ticking clock and breakfast dishes. I can’t help you find self-discipline. I can only remind you that social media, and housework, will still be there when you check back into the world in an hour. And you might remind yourself that the world won’t stop for your Writing Hour—and it probably won’t notice that you’ve been gone!

  1. Turn off and tune out. Don’t minimize the computer screen or turn the TV on mute. That’s just tempting temptation. Every morning at 7:00 a.m., I go to my writing place and pull up my WIP and that’s it. Nothing else is alive on my laptop. Additionally, because FB and email are my biggest weaknesses, I sign out of both. It’s a pain in the butt to sign in and out every morning, but I do because I know it will be a pain in the butt to sign back in for just a wee quick check between paragraphs. If you have to make it hard on yourself, do it.
  2. Calm yourself. If you are snatching an hour at lunch, or if you rush to make coffee so you’ll be ready to Sprint on the hour, take a minute to close your eyes or breathe deeply, and relax. I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders, so before I touch the keyboard, I place my hands in my lap, roll my shoulders, and loosen my muscles. If you have the time to do this before your writing begins, that’s great. If not, devoting a minute to physical preparedness is worth the sacrifice of a minute out of your hour.
  3. Prepare mentally. I go on (and on and on) about the benefits of writing every day, and establishing a routine of when and where you’ll write. So much of creativity is a mental game that can work for you, or derail you. To be economical with the sixty minutes of your hour, get your head into your WIP before you begin. Think about what you wrote yesterday and what you want to write today. If what you wrote yesterday stunk, and you can’t move on without editing it, accept that and revise instead of writing new words. If you are mired in a scene and have been there for several days, accept that and decide you’ll move on to a new scene. Be in your story before you sit down to write.
  4. Keep a Sprint or Writing Journal. This may be the most valuable part of the Write an Hour at a Time method, and so it deserves a full post of its own. Tune in tomorrow for tips on keeping a writing journal.

Other posts in this series:

How To Write an Hour at a Time

How to Use a Sprint Journal


5 thoughts on “How to Make the Most of a Writing Hour

  1. Monday thru Friday I write in the cafe area at work. I bring my personal computer (now that I have a shiny new MacBook Air it’s so easy and light). At first my co-workers were confused (what’s she doing?), but word got around and now nobody talks to me. And I don’t have WiFi, so no temptations there. At home, I like sitting in our new reclining loveseat in the den/library – surrounded by books. And my family knows to leave me alone. Sometimes I can go outside, but then I get distracted by rabbits/birds/people on the street. And I spent lots of time daydreaming about my characters, so it’s easy to get my head in the story. I’ll be interested to read about the sprint journal – because I am a HORRIBLE journal keeper.


    1. Mary, as I said yesterday, you are a Writing Hour Warrior, and your dedication is to be admired. About the journal, I have never once successfully kept a personal journal, but the WIP journal is like my book bible. Tune in tomorrow!


  2. I’d be interested in hearing sometime how you use your note cards. I am constantly jotting notes and entering them into a journal as I write, and find myself frequently reorganizing those notes, which get extensive before the final editing is done. Although necessary, I feel I’m wasting a lot of time on that process, and would love to hear how other writers do this.

    A tip I found very helpful, for those of you who are visual, is to locate pictures (photos, sketches, whatever) of your characters as you visualize them, and place them around your work space. You can also do this with settings. Especially for characters that are not based on people or places you know well, it is a big help to be able to glance up as you write to add those little touches to your work. I wish I had done this with my first novel, but I’m trying to locate just the right ones for the one I’m about to begin.


    1. Pat, thank you for your comments. My note cards are scene cards. I use a story board and move cards around as necessary. I use one card per scene, and I am very specific about who appears in the scene, where it happens, and the scene goal. Maybe this is another post?

      I love your suggestions about visual inspiration! I have a poster board behind the door with various items that inspire me, but I don’t use it much. Your comment has me stewing about doing that more effectively. Hmm. Thanks!


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