31
Jan
11

The value of useless chunks of time

In the film, Office Space, a frustrated worker finds a way to manipulate a computer glitch in an accounting program that simply discards fractions of a cent with each transaction. A fraction of a cent is something that no one will miss, but when these workers siphon off the fractions of a cent from thousands of transactions, they soon find themselves with more money than they imagined.

Writers can take the same approach to time that ordinarily gets discarded.

Most look at the few minutes before appointments, meetings, or other time commitments as time when writing can’t happen. However, it’s the perfect time to write or edit precisely for the reason that so little is expected.

Making use of those tiny periods of time when expectations are lowest can pay great dividends down the line. The short time period with a set ending point can provide the same kind of intense focus that a paper deadline can without the feeling of dread that the final product will be graded. The perception that this is useless time that was going to be wasted anyways allows for writers to deal with the frustration that nothing might come out of their effort. Any work that does come out of it provides positive momentum because a writer has exceeded his/her expectations. That’s bound to leave a writer feeling better than another trip to the internet will.

With practice, writers can learn to chunk these tiny bits of time together. Expert time-chunkers learn to use these tiny bits of time to their fullest, marking out areas for improvement and leaving behind hooks in their writing so that the next session is easier to get started on. At the same time, these writers benefit from the training their brain receives on how to quickly get focused and into a flow state of writing.

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Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.


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