A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
What in the world is a sprint journal?
I have never kept a diary, though I was gifted many in my childhood. What stopped me from recording my private thoughts? My brothers. I was sure they’d track down my diary and ridicule me at the dinner table.
When I became a writer, I tried journaling, but that didn’t work, either. Every time I began a journal entry about a story, I abandoned it to go off and write the story.
Lots of people never keep diaries or journals. I was one of them–until I discovered writing in sprints.
A writing sprint means writing, uninterrupted, for a specific amount of time with a specific word count goal. The most common sprint is the 1hr/1K variety—one hour and 1000 new words.
Sprints are great to pound out new pages. Sprints can be solo: excuse yourself from social media, the phone, your family, and write for an hour. Or, a sprint can be communal: Tweet or post a “Sprinting at 7:00. Who’s in?” Facebook update, and others can write at the same time.
Most days, I have only one hour to devote to my personal writing, and a daily sprint means four new pages a day. That’s good output.
Where does journaling come in?
An hour goes by quickly. It can be difficult to go from 0 to 100 with no warm up. And there is that blank page fear.
I found it helpful to jot down, in longhand, what I needed to write about in the coming hour. Just a line or two: Work on scene in elevator. Foreshadow car accident with reckless driving. Write snowbank scene from D’s childhood as flashback. Finish snowbank flashback.
Writing what I was going to write before I wrote it was the warm up I needed to settle into creative mode. Being small and specific helped me focus. The warm up and focus cured me of going blank before the blank page.
At first I used haphazard bits of paper, but just like the relatives who gave me diaries as a child, friends and family have given me many writing journals. Journals that remained on my bookcase—until I realized I could record my sprint warm ups in one place.
Now, I use a sprint journal to note exactly what I will write for the next hour. I sprint every day at 7:00 a.m. Five minutes before the hour, I read yesterday’s journal entry, and then I write today’s. When the clock ticks onto the hour, I close the sprint journal, turn to my laptop, and open my manuscript in progress. I don’t fret at the blank computer screen because I’ve just recorded what I need to write.
A sprint journal may not include my private thoughts, but it’s a useful tool in my daily quest for 1000 words. Anyone who’d want to read it at the dinner table can go ahead! All that will be revealed is how to plan what to write for an hour every day.
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