When I left my last job, my coworkers got me a Mystery Writer’s Kit from Writers for Pete’s Sake, a writing group based out of Washington, as a going away gift. It’s a purse-like bag chock full of pockets, paper, brochures, mystery writing tips, charts, pens and other such writer-y things. It’s a beautiful bag–insanely soft–on its own, and the pockets will surely be put to good use someday as purse divisions, but the jewel of this bag for me has been a burger-shaped timer. It came in a majestic looking red bag all on its own, the kind you’d use for D20s carved from diamonds (another use that would be awesome to claim someday), and it is absolutely fantastic. I mean, it’s not like a magical time traveling timer. The technology is standard, up-to-an-hour timer tech aside from the shape, but I’ve noticed that using it is really helpful. I set it for twenty minutes at a time, adding extra twenty minute intervals as I go, and just keep resetting it until I’m done. I know it might sound silly to use for something I love, but honestly, I’m connected to the internet almost all of the time to play my music (another necessity), and sometimes the lure of hopping on Facebook or checking email really quick or even gazing blankly out my window can be pretty strong. Not to mention the more fruitful lures of stopping to craft, clean some random thing in the room, or read.
Using a timer helps me overcome those distractions. When I set that timer I am dedicating my time to my craft, something I’m audibly reminded of every time it ticks. It keeps me focused on what I need to do. Additionally, it helps get me mentally prepared before I start. All the little things like bathroom breaks, snacks, drinks or location have to be already addressed. My room must already be clean, my music set. Working with a timer has opened my eyes to what some of those smaller, less obvious distractions are, as well as ways to get them out of the way.
The burger has also been helpful in making me more consistent. One of the tips included in the kit talked about not worrying too much about quantity or quality during the time, but just to write what you can. It helps on those days when I’m not feeling super inspired, feel stuck, or for whatever reason am just more distracted. And, seeing as it usually takes me at least five to ten minutes to get into what I’m writing just from orienting myself back to that mental space, sitting down and making myself write for those first few minutes is usually all I need to get some solid work done.
So, what do you use to keep on track? Doesn’t have to be writing. Any discipline will do.