A week ago my Internet went down. For an entire day, I was cut off from the World Wide Web, denied contact with my writer friends and starved of my social media intake. (Ever had Pinterest cravings? Not pretty.) So I tried to use my time productively. I sat down to write and realised something that was so painfully obvious, yet I’d failed to notice it for years: I’m a habitual Internet checker.
Every hundred or so words, I’d scroll across to Chrome and check my Twitter, my emails, my blog, because you never know—someone might have contacted me in the five minutes since I last checked. But that day, without the Internet, I couldn’t do that. I had to write without any of that, and that was when I truly appreciated what the word sprint means to me.
Word sprints are focus. They’re a period of time in which nothing else matters except my story. Considering how many demands there are on my time and attention nowadays, that’s a special thing. Back when I started writing, around six years ago, I didn’t have the distractions I do now—the Internet was a cumbersome, unreliable thing and social media was a foreign concept. I’d sit down to write and type away quite happily (albeit slowly) for hours. Today, my fingers itch to open up the Internet at every opportunity. Without word sprints, I’d never get anything done.
Word sprints are also super-productive. Before my first NaNoWriMo, my output for 2011 was around 30,000 words. In 2012, it was 200,000 words. With the help of three NaNoWriMo events and an armada of word sprints, I wrote over six times as much as I would otherwise have done. The past two years have been explosive for my output, and because I’ve been writing so much, my skills as a writer have improved as well.
Word sprints are creativity. Whenever I’m blocked, whenever I don’t know where the story’s going or what my characters will do next, I start a word sprint. Forcing myself to write, rather than ponder, rekindles my imagination and reawakens my muse.
My current WIP, Her Clockwork Heart, began life in a freewrite word sprint. It was Camp NaNoWriMo, I had an hour until midnight and 1500 words to write, so I opened up my Word document, set a timer and wrote without inhibition. A scene started to take shape, populated by characters I’d never considered before, and pretty soon after that, my muse took the reins completely and decided that I was going to write a steampunk novel. Never argue with the muse (or she’ll start hurling writer’s block your way).
So that’s what word sprints mean to me. That’s why I sprint away my days. But what about you—why do you love to word sprint?