Time Constraint Experiment

I recently read a blog post from an author on Writer Unboxed (I forget who the author was, and I’ve already deleted the email) who told a story about writing in an airplane on a 45-minute flight. The post was chiefly about how this author felt during that time, the sense of excitement and terror and pressure to produce something with such a limited amount of time. This author repeats this exercise often, believing that under such constraints, they are bolder in their approach and write things they never would have thought to otherwise.

I didn’t give this approach much thought at the time. I prefer to block out several hours in which to write, and if I run out of things to say before that time is up, then I just stop early. But today I’m going to run a quick test, and see what I can accomplish in a short amount of time. See, I haven’t gotten around to getting any writing done yet today, and my laptop only has 22% battery left. Which leaves me with two options: try to accomplish something now, or plug in the laptop and get back to work later (the cord is currently trapped behind the tech station, and I cannot easily plug the laptop in and continue working).

So, I’m going to use my 22% as best I can for the moment, and see what I can accomplish.

RESULTS: Better than expected. My battery is currently at 5%. I wrote for 29 minutes, and put down 712 words.

Interestingly, I did find the time constraint somewhat freeing. Knowing I had a limited amount of time, I put down the first words that came to mind without thinking too much about getting them perfect. I ended up with my protagonist confronting my antagonist earlier than I had planned, and I think I like it better this way.

The other author was right about the terror, too. I felt incredibly pressured, and tense, worried that my time would run out before I had told a sufficient story. As it is, I ended in the middle of a scene, the middle of a conversation, even, and it’s going to bug me until I have the opportunity to finish.

All in all, it was an interesting experiment, but probably not one I’ll repeat often, or even again. I still prefer my blocked out time, and being able to end where I choose, not where time cuts me off.

Talk to me in the comments. Do you ever write under intentional time constraints? What are your impressions of the practice?

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