Fast and Focused Writing

I went to a writing workshop this weekend called “Fast and Focused Writing With Lori DeBoer.” Lori DeBoer is a local writer and writing coach. I had been to one of her workshops previously and I liked it, so I thought, “What the heck?” I could stand to be a lot faster and more focused of a writer. The class did not disappoint. If you were here, you would see my fingers flying across my keyboard faster than a speeding bullet. The class didn’t say anything about avoiding cliches.

It was a two hour event, so my first thought after signing up was, “Why did I not block out those two hours to hide in the basement or go to a coffee shop and actually write???” My next thought was, “Too late now, I have already paid. I’m going.”

I can’t say I was shocked by any of the groundbreaking new information I learned, but it’s always good to hear certain things again. Actually, one of the things that I appreciated was hearing the instructor say it’s ok to block out an hour of writing time three to four times a week, if that’s all you have. I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield this year, which is a great book, however I felt ashamed to call myself a writer after I read it because it said that real writers write every single day. And I’ve been feeling lazy for not writing something, even a few sentences, on the daily, which has become an especially elusive goal ever since Lady Bug was born. Feeling like a failure is not conducive to creativity.

Gems of the class included:

– The idea of a writing sprint. Of course, this appeals to the runner in me. You set your timer for a short period of time, say 15 minutes, and write as fast as you can for that amount of time. When you’re done you reward yourself. Your reward could be a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. I think if I set aside 15 minutes, someone’s butt would need to be wiped or someone would be crying, or both, before I got to my reward.

– It’s important to plan what you are going to write. Just like it’s easier to start the day when your clothes are laid out the night before, you should have a topic or a task in mind when you sit at your desk. I just ordered a day runner for my writing. Because obviously the first step to self-improvement is buying something. I usually use a Google calendar for my appointments but I really like having something I can touch and visualize, and since I don’t need to share my writing stuff with Dan, this will work for me.

– If you are stuck, you can switch from typing to writing. If you are writing longhand and you are still stuck, you can ask yourself a question about whatever is holding you back and answer that question using your non-dominant hand. This is supposed to be really good for your brain.

-Exercise before you write. I know that I feel so much more focused, calm, and creative after I’ve exercised. Exercising, showering, having breakfast, and then sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee is my idea of the perfect morning. I think I might be able to do that again in five or seven years? There was a guy in the class who actually raised his hand and asked the question, “Why would you want to write fast?” My head exploded. I can’t imagine a life where I had so much time I wouldn’t mind writing slowly.

-Even New York Times bestselling authors have impostor syndrome. They struggle to perform when there is pressure to have another bestseller. Also, the instructor, a prolific writer herself, claimed that anyone who says that sometimes they get in the zone and a muse takes over and writes through their body is full of shit. In a way, this was comforting. But if it’s true, then I’m confused because I read Amy Tan’s fabulous memoir on her life as a writer and she swears that if she sits at her desk and plods away, eventually the inspiration comes and it’s as if she’s just a vessel typing the story that comes from some higher place. I want to believe Amy Tan because I want to believe in magic.

-Willpower is a muscle that you strengthen every time you use it. Again, the runner in me loves this concept. I know this is true, and it’s inspiring to hear it again. I will not look at Facebook when I am supposed to be writing. I will not look at Facebook when I’m supposed to be writing. I will not look at Facebook when I’m supposed to be writing.

-Apparently I’m not the only one who struggles with guilt and writing. Lori said many writers feel like their writing is not important when they are not getting paid (or being paid a small amount) for it, and then they don’t protect their writing time, and instead go to lunch with their mom or go for a walk with a friend when they are supposed to be writing. She said it’s ok to say, “I have a meeting at that time.” in order to get out of seeing people during your writing time. I hate lying plus I’m really bad at it so I would probably never use that tactic. It’s just nice to know I’m not alone in feeling awkward about saying no to social things when I want or need to be writing.

-The brainwaves you emit during meditation are the same as those you emit when you’re in the flow of writing. Therefore it’s a good idea to get into the habit of meditating before you write. It has long been a resolution of mine to meditate, even for five minutes, every day. This is one more kick in the pants to help me get on top of that goal.

There were a lot of other little facts and suggestions that were presented, but I listed the ones that really stood out for me. The most inspiring part, however, was being surrounded by other writers. I had so much fun chatting with a couple of other women after the class. We talked about things we struggle with in our writing, we shared tips, and they assured me my life will get easier (one has kids ages 10 and 13 and the other is a great grandmother).

11 thoughts on “Fast and Focused Writing

    • Pam says:

      I’m part of a wonderful group called Boulder Media Women and this event was announced in their email listserv. I think it was a Boulder Writers Alliance event… Do let me know if you attend one of their events in the future!!

        • Lori DeBoer says:

          Thanks for this amazing writeup! It was great to have you there and you added so much to our gathering. If anyone is interested in going to one of these events, we’ll be starting back up in January. You can find out more by visiting the Boulder Writers’ Workshop website at and can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter. I won’t have the new events up until after Christmas, though.

    • Pam says:

      Longer than I would like! I usually write it and then edit it later or the next day, so I am not sure, but I would estimate it takes me at least 2 hours to write one. If it’s super super short, 45 minutes. It always takes longer than I think to make the wording just how I want it and to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes!

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