When I started at a new job earlier this year, I was given two options for my lunch break. The default setting in the system was one hour, and I kept it as such rather than changing it to thirty minutes.
One of my coworkers recently asked me why I chose the longer timeframe.
Although I could change my preference in only a few clicks, and initially intended to do so once I got more settled in, I’ve come to find I prefer having the full hour.
Early on, I started bringing my tablet and pocket keyboard with me. This was around the time I was prepping posts ahead of returning from a blogging hiatus, but writing on my breaks isn’t new. I’ve often been one to bring the composition notebook containing whichever new story I’m working on or research materials to comb through during my lunch—or even during my shifts at my college work-study position if the office was a ghost town.
These days, being able to take that time to work on my new WIP or blog posts feels more important than ever.
With this new job, it’s been difficult to designate a specific time for my writing projects because my schedule is a bit more irregular compared to previous ones and is made of longer shifts.
On those occasions, that one hour is often the only chance I have to do anything writing-related.
If you can’t make the time for something, make the most of the time you do have to work with.
In making the most of that time, I've started doing Lunch Break Writing Sprints.
A writing sprint is intended to boost a writer's productivity and focus by challenging themselves to write even if it's only in a small pocket of time. There are a few ways to approach these sprints. Some people will set a definite limit and aim for a particular word count or page count, like three hundred words in twenty minutes. Others might be a little looser, instead using that time to draft an exchange of dialogue or to just write freely. Inspiration may also be taken from a prompt such as a given line of dialogue or a photograph. These exercises were sometimes a warm-up in various writing classes I took throughout college as a way to wake up the creative side of our minds, and many writers use them in this manner before tackling their WIP.
I’m the kind of writer who likes to have some parameters in place, going into a project with an outline—but one that isn’t too rigid—and a willingness to stray from that outline and let the story tell itself. As it turns out, I also benefit from time limits for writing sessions.
Knowing I have only that hour to work on a blog post or write that exchange of dialogue creates a sense of structure, like one of those timed essays throughout school. So in that sense, it works to my benefit, even if does feel constricting at times.
Structure is not the only benefit I’ve found in this single hour.
In the break room, the WiFi is spotty at best, meaning it’s virtually impossible for me to become distracted by the internet because I can’t access it. Of course, there is a downside to that. I once lost the blog post I was working on in the Wix app because it couldn’t save, so everything now gets typed up in an offline MS Word doc to be synced when I get home, at which point I’ll copy-paste it into Wix and do any proofreading and formatting in the browser. It forces me to be efficient when I'm off the clock, even if I have to jump through some hoops to coordinate it all.
Additionally, the WiFi situation has me typically waiting until I'm home to draft any posts requiring significant research; if anything, I'll start the draft and leave notes to myself like [RESEARCH] where I need to track down some information.
While these sprints have made me feel more productive, there are a few things I can't or won't work on during my lunch. Even though I'm almost always in WIP-editing mode, you won't see me doing much editing in the break room. This is primarily because I need to be able to focus on it entirely, which can be difficult with the ongoing background noise of the setting, and the way my editing process has me spreading things out be it a printout to mark up or switching between multiple windows and drafts. The same goes for anything related to the querying process, from preparing and polishing submission materials to researching agents and eventually braving the SEND button again.
While I've been primarily focused on blogging during these sprints, there have been a few spent working on a new first draft. However, there are a few chapters I'll wait on. Like the aforementioned blog posts, scenes needing extensive research are something I'll delay until I'm home and can access the relevant materials.
Then, there are those I'll set aside for other reasons.
It's no secret that I don't shy away from steaminess in my romance WIPs, but I do have my limits. Sex scenes can be so much fun to write, but they're also an intimate experience. Getting myself in the right mindset has a ritual of sorts involved, from the right music to a splash of Grand Mariner in my tea or a glass of brandy at the ready. Like the flow of the scenes themselves, there's a buildup to the naughty goodness I cannot neglect.
And there's also the risk of awkwardness should someone happen to glance over my shoulder and see something NSFW.
Being able to adapt the concept into something that works for your habits as a writer and make the most of what you have to work with isn't always easy, but doing so in small doses has so far had a big impact on my personal routine. Even though I can't work on all of my projects in the break room, incorporating lunchtime writing sprints has helped me ease back into blogging and reestablish my sense of regularity when it comes to writing fiction.