Thursday, March 10, 2011

The 30 Minute Hat Trick

Whew. I'm gonna be honest here--it is HARD to get back into blogging when you've been away for a while. I mean, I totes needed the break I took, but now that I'm here again? It's frakkin' hard to come up with things to talk about. Like, the only thing I can come up with right now is to tell you I chopped all my hair off (pictures forthcoming)--but who the heck wants to hear about that?

So, instead I thought I'd let you in on a little trick I've been using to yank myself up out of my writing rut.

It's kind of like a pull up.

Pull Up: an arm exercise performed by pulling yourself up on a horizontal bar until your chin is level with the bar (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn) (duh)

I STILL hold the record at my elementary school for the most pull ups done at one time by a girl. I think it's like... 28 or something ridiculous like that? (In case you think I'm full of it: I used to be a hardcore gymnast, the number 28 could very well be erring on the low side.)

Now, I'm (at least, sigh) as old as that once amazing pull up number. And I can't even do one measly pull up. Believe me, I know because Hubster bought an over the door pull up bar for P90X and I can barely even hang from it, let alone lift myself.

That is, until I put a chair a few feet away from where the bar hangs and use one foot on the chair to help pull myself up. Then I can do at least... three. a million. eight.

And that's kind of like the writing trick I'm about to share with you. My flipping amazing CP Cristin Terrill suggested it--almost offhandedly--to me, and it works like whoa. She basically revived my WIP with a toss of casual words that acted as that necessary chair under my foot. And now, it's become my mantra on those days when I. just. can't. make. myself. want. to. write. I call it The 30 Minute Hat Trick.

Hat Tricka clever or adroitly deceptive maneuver. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hat+trick
Original image (and other REALLY cool optical illusions, found here:

I used to set word count goals for myself. Like, on a day when I really didn't feel like writing, I'd tell myself I'd just get 500 words in, and then I could be done. Except on those days, every single word felt like squeezing blood from a stone (um, and stones don't bleed, fyi). (Double duh.) And one day, I was complaining about explaining it to Cristin and she threw these little words out that completely changed me:

I stared at her for a minute and I'll admit, I was doubtful. Thirty minutes? How can I call myself a serious writer if I only write for thirty minutes? I'll probably get like... six words done in thirty minutes. Sheesh. But then, thirty minutes are better than no minutes. They're better than spending all day trying to squeeze out 500 words and then feeling like a failure. This way, I could meet my time goal and still feel like I accomplished what I wanted to do--even if I only wrote 6 words.

But guess what happened when I tried it?

Before I started, I spent a little time rereading what I'd written the past few days. Then, I looked at the clock and it was 12:47 (or something like that) so I told myself I just had to make it until--

*pauses to do the math* 



The first fifteen minutes or so weren't easy. I won't lie: getting those initial few sentences or paragraphs written is HARD when your creative juices aren't flowing. But then--all the sudden--I looked up and it was 1:13. I only had four minutes left and then I could be done!

Except, I didn't want to be.

And I didn't have to be. I passed my goal by THREE hours--and a few thousand words--that day. And I've had similar success every single time I've used The 30 Minute Hat Trick. I think there's something about that 22 to 26 minute mark where everything clicks into place and the words begin to flow.

So, to make a (holy cow how did this post get so) long story short--when you're struggling to find the motivation to write, try giving yourself a 30 minute goal. And then see how far you end up getting :) 

Then, come back here and let me know how it worked!!

Question of the Day: What are your weekend plans???


  1. *pauses to do the math*

    You are so stinkin' adorable. Welcome back!

  2. My weekend plans are house hunting! Hubby and I are looking to buy our first place. Very exciting. :)

    This hat trick is the only way I can make it through NaNoWriMo. I found a website called mytomatoes.com that uses the pomodoro technique--a timer that runs for 25 minutes, gives you a one-minute warning, and then rings. Afterward, you can enter your info (for me, how many words I wrote in 25 minutes) in a little box, then start all over again. It keeps track of your account, so you can see how well you did. It helped me SO much during NaNo, and sometimes I still use it.

  3. LOL brilliant... I am certainly going to give this a go. It sounds like it might just be my saviour too!
    Thank you.... oh, and welcome back!

  4. I like it! :)

    You need to update that progress bar, by the way ;)

  5. Glad you found something that's working for ya! I'll keep it in mind for when I'm hammering out my next shiny new idea.

    This weekend? Why, I think I'll be seeing YOU and the fabulous Cristin T at SCBWI. YAY!!

  6. This is brilliant. What a great idea!

    But I thought a hat trick was when one player scored three goals in the same game. Like Hockey, or Soccer. Shows what dudes know: sports.

  7. I'll have to try this. I've been over-analyzing where to go next with my wip, so maybe this will help me figure out what to do in a more organic way.

    Thanks, Sara.

    PS, I love that sidewalk artist's work, he is amazing!

  8. These kinds of tricks can make all the difference! My CP and I set a goal of 100 words a day. We're both super busy and we were having a hard time writing anything at all. But 100 words is like a paragraph and we sit down thinking psht. I can at least do that. And then, almost every time I've written at least a few hundred. But even if I don't at least I've written SOMETHING.

    It's amazing how much little tricks help :)

  9. Yes, this really works! I finished the first draft of my WiP by doing something similar. And it's even better when you race against someone, that way you'll have to tell them your word count at the end.

  10. I'm a stay-at-home dad with a new son (for another month, anyway), so I'd forgotten that there are such things as weekends.

    Just getting down to work is always the hardest part. It's so much easier to check your email and Facebook and your blog stats instead of working on the dreaded WIP. But once you get going, it's the best part of the day. The hat trick should really help with that. Thanks.
    It Just Got Interesting

  11. I immediately thought of soccer too, Matt. Sports. Great trick and one I use now and again to get the words flowing. Thank you, Sara!

  12. I set an old egg timer for 30 minutes all the time. (I use the same trick for getting myself on the evil treadmill)

    And, since I know you ALSO FINISHED you latest ms...CONGRATS!

    Oh, and the weekend? Booked solid. If you catch me tweeting while intoxicated, kick me off!

    Love and huggles,

  13. That's the trick, isn't it? Just have to get yourself started. I think sometimes blogging can be even harder for me than my WIP, because it's so immediate! And no one will edit it for you before you publish. Coming up with just the right thing can be tricky.

    Also, you chopped off all your hair? Whoa. I bet that looks amazing! Are you talking to your neck, ears or pixie?

  14. This is how I force myself to do it too. Word counts are daunting, but I can force myself to think "Ok, I can do 30 minutes, even if it is all crap."

  15. I love this idea! I have been using Mac Freedom lately, too, so this trick + Mac Freedom will get me some major progress. Yay!

  16. I love this. I call it my 30 minute writer's block. I'm not kidding when I say that I hit a wall every time I sit down to write. Sometimes it doesn't take the whole 30 minutes, but the other day I wrote for 2 hours and I swear the rocks out front were bleeding! It was so painful...nothing was coming. Once I get past that point, though, I could write for hours on end. :)

  17. How great!! I used to set word goals, too, but now I write by the hour. My writer buddies and I unplug from the computer and write for one hour, then meet up in a chat and talk about it. So many times I've been grooving and can't stop, so I just keep writing, writing, writing (love those days) but mostly the chat is a nice break from an hour of writing, and it's great to work out whatever needs working out with my buddies.

    And 28? WOW. That hurts my arms just thinking about it!!!

  18. Hi☺ I came across your blog when I was on... crud, I don't remember whose blog I came from. Lol! I think you made a comment that amused me so of course I decided to stalk. ;) Anyway, great idea! I have such a hard time getting started and I know that if I just get in the groove I will be ok but sometimes that isn't enough motivation for me. I will have to try this. Oh and fyi, the "things that make me tick" list is some of my favorite things as well! Except of course your hubby and kitties, though I'm sure they are lovely. ;)

  19. I feel the same way, like, a lot. But then I do what you do and tell myself 20 or 30 minutes is better than nothing and before you know it, I've banged out a couple hundred words. And then my kids come into my classroom, but I digress.

    I HAD an amazing weekend with some fabulous people, btw. Thanks for stopping by the blog!


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)