A #writesprint is a timed writing session. For a set period — often 60 minutes but sometimes shorter — you sit down and focus all your attention on writing.
No checking Twitter. No Googling lyrics. No running to the kitchen for a snack.
It doesn’t have to be screenwriting; you can #writesprint a term paper, a novel or a blog post. The important thing is that you’re writing something you want or need to write.
A #writesprint is about showing up. It’s designed to get your butt in the seat, fingers on the keyboard.
When the timer ends, stand up and walk away. You can come back to do more writing later, even another sprint, but definitely reward yourself for having done the work.
You can do a #writesprint by yourself, but it often helps to have the social pressure and accountability of others. I’ll occasionally announce on Twitter that I’m about to start a #writesprint:
Back to things I can control: I’m starting a #writesprint at the top of the hour. One task, 60 minutes, no stopping. Who’s in?— John August (@johnaugust) March 18, 2020
If you want to write along with me, reply or favorite or just start. You never need permission. If you want to brag about how much you got done during your sprint, go for it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need any special equipment or software? Not really. You can set a timer on your phone. If you’re using Highland 2, the built-in Sprint function will keep track of your words, which is handy.
Do I need to start at the top of the hour? No. It’s convenient but not necessary. When I was writing the Arlo Finch books, I found it useful to schedule two sprints a day, generally at 10am and 2pm.
Can I use a #writesprint to do non-writing work?
Of course! If it’s something you’re kind of dreading doing, but a timer and some social pressure helps, go for it.
Where did this idea come from?
I might have created the #writesprint hashtag,1 but I definitely got the idea from Jane Espenson, who’s been doing these for years. (She calls them writing sprints, which sounds better but doesn’t hashtag as neatly.) And of course it shares a tradition with the Pomodoro Technique and other productivity hacks.
Will this really boost my productivity?
If you’re spending a fixed amount of time at the keyboard concentrating on one thing to write, you’re going to get more accomplished than if you’re jumping between email and YouTube and various news sites. It’s like putting blinders on a horse. It keeps you focused.
How short can a #writesprint be?
You can get a lot done in just 10 minutes of focused writing. Don’t be afraid to set short sprints.
Can I go longer than 60 minutes?
If you’re in the flow and decide you want to keep working past the bell, that’s your choice. But don’t set out to write for more than 60 minutes. The idea of a sprint is that it’s intense and focused. It’s a different energy than a marathon.
- I’ve deleted my old tweets, but the earliest appearance of #writesprint is in 2011, which is when I started doing them. ↩