Better Writing: Get Your Writing Rhythm

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“It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing).”

That’s a saying of trumpeter Bubber Miley. Duke Ellington wrote a jazz standard based on it. Great writing certainly has rhythm and flow. The process of writing should, too.

Your goal for every writing session should be to produce enough good writing to maintain momentum or make your deadline. Getting in rhythm will help you keep good work flowing.

Finding time to write

My clients are mostly mid-career businesspeople. There are writing a book while they’re working and carrying on a full life.

Their biggest challenge is making the time to write without going crazy and without shredding their relationships. You won’t just “find” time to write. You must carve it out of the limited number of hours you have every day and every week. That means you almost certainly will take it from the time you spend on recreation, relationships, or work.

Make it regular

You’ll be more effective over time if you have a regular time and place for writing. Going into the same place at the same time and using the same rituals tell your brain it’s time to write. After a while, your brain will tell you.

Take enough time

You need large blocks of time to do good writing. For most people, that means working for about 50 minutes and then taking a break for about 20 minutes. One client of mine who uses the Pomodoro method for other work schedules his writing in Pomodoro sessions. He works for 25 minutes, then he takes a 5-minute break.

It doesn’t seem to matter how often you schedule your writing sessions as long as you produce enough good writing and work in significant blocks of time. Some clients write every day. Others write once a week. One client writes in bursts. He goes to a secluded place and punches out an entire draft before he goes home again.

Make every session productive

Writing time is precious. You want to get as much from each session as you can.

Know what you’re going to write before you begin your session. That way you can get right to writing and skip the procrastinating, planning, and make-work. At the end of every writing session, decide exactly which are going to write at the beginning of the next session.

Distractions are the devil. Close the door to your writing space. Put your phone in a different room. Threaten anyone nearby with grievous bodily harm if they disturb you. Then begin the same ritual you use to start every session.

Adopt the Raymond Chandler Rule. I named it for the mystery and screenwriter. It’s based on advice he gave to a friend. When it’s time to write, you don’t have to write. The catch is that you can’t do anything else, either.

So, no research. No web surfing. No social media. No straightening up the office. You may sit in a chair quietly or lie on the floor. It’s write or nothing. You’ll write soon enough.

Takeaways

You must do enough quality work to maintain momentum or meet your deadlines.

Finding time to write will be your biggest writing challenge.

You will almost certainly need to take the time from relationships, recreation, or work.

Take enough time to do enough good work.

Make every writing session productive.

Adopt the Raymond Chandler Rule for your writing sessions.

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