Monday, May 14, 2012

The Thirty Minute Hat Trick

I'm cheating a bit today . . . I actually posted this in March 2011 for the first time. But I'm in MEXICO, baby! So I prescheduled a throwback. What can I say? You get a throwback post, while I'm throwing back those margaritas, baby!


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 as old (plus a bit, sighas 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 . . . threea 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!!


  1. I love that!

    I do something similar when I'm feeling unmotivated -- I tell myself I only have to write ONE sentence. That way I'll know I at least moved forward. Of course, I can never stop at just one. The one always leads to "just one more," and so on.

    Hope you're having a great time south of the border! :)

  2. Awesome idea. I struggle to squeeze in the time sometimes. If I can just think of it as 30 minutes of the day, I could do it. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Love this idea! Counting words sometimes feels intimidating, but thirty minutes is totally reasonable. I know once I found a groove, I'd want to keep going. Thanks for the tip, and have a daiquiri for me in Mexico! :)

  4. This does sound like a good trick!

    I'm a revise/edit as I go person, so when I feel stuck, I'll go to something I know needs revising...often I just keep revising, but sometimes something I change helps me with the next blank page too.

    Have fun in Mexico!

  5. Wow, I am so trying this today! That sounds awesome. Hope you're having a great time in Mexico!

  6. Great idea! I didn't include this one on my list but definitely should have. (I wrote about writing motivation today as well.)

    Hope you're having fun!

  7. Ohhhh I love the idea AND I love your style. Also, every writer knows recycling and repurposing is the name of the game, right?

    Enjoy the rest of your time in Mexico and thanks for the Blogfest! I am so out of it I forgot until I visited today and said BAH! I forgot! (So I immediately looked and recycled!)

    Much Love!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    BlogMe Maybe Blog Fest Participant
    Twitter: @juliejordanscott
    What I learned from my son about writing: Maybe Blogfest Post May 14.

  8. Love this! This is how I clean my apartment sometimes, too--I just have to clean for one episode of 30 Rock. And lo and behold, the place looks great, and I find an organization project to work on to justify watching one more episode...

  9. This is a brilliant idea! I've been wondering what would happen if I tried this out, but thought the same thing you did. I'll never get anything meaningful done in only 30 minutes. But, it is better than nothing.

    Guess I'm just going to have to try this out, after all.

  10. This was a great idea! If I ever start writing this is something I would definitely use :)

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