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Linda Sue Park

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A writing strategy

Back in the day, major-league baseball franchises occasionally had a team member whose title was ‘player-manager’. Just like it sounds, a player-manager played regularly on the field AND made the managerial decisions. The last such player-manager was Pete Rose, for the Cincinnati Reds back in the 1980s.

When I’m at a conference, I’m usually on the faculty, and I’ve often wished there were a designation similar to ‘player-manager’. Something like ‘faculty-colleague’, maybe?

Because in my conversations with attendees, I do as much learning as I do teaching.

Here’s the latest example. I was fortunate to be a faculty special guest at the Highlights Foundation Summer Camp last week. I gave one presentation, and participated in the final faculty Q&A session. Otherwise, I used my four days there as a mini-retreat, to work on the revision of a middle-grade manuscript.

It’s been a difficult project. I’m making progress, but it’s slo-o-o-o-w.

Then one of the attendees–hi, Neda!–told me about a writing session she and a few other campers had done together. Among her companions was Alex Villasante. Alex kept the group on task by setting her phone timer, and they worked in 15-minute focused bursts.

I had learned about this tip long ago (Elizabeth Gilbert, for example, says 30 minutes), but had forgotten about it. Well, I’ve been using it ever since Neda reminded me of it–and finding it VERY helpful.

I’m doing 10 or 12 minutes. For that length of time, I stay on my manuscript, no cheating, step away from the phone, ma’am. When the beep sounds, I get a little reward–a peek at Twitter, a round of Toy Blast, a quick stretch. Then another session, and another after that.

Whether it’s the luxury of a days-long writing retreat, an afternoon with no other commitments, an hour when the grandchild takes a nap (RAISES HAND)–the writing time available to us is always precious. To me, it’s incredibly frustrating and confidence-sapping to carve out time like that–and then sit staring blankly at the screen, or else fritter away those valuable minutes.

Short, focused bursts + little rewards are working for me. Maybe you’d like to try it as well.

And a big thank you to writing colleagues Neda and Alex. 🙂