Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Writing Sprints

 By Christin Liu Perkins

When my children were young, I learned to fit writing into the corners of a busy schedule: during 15 minutes in waiting rooms, 20-minute nap times, 30-minute swim lessons, 45-minute music lessons. Amazingly, I got lots of writing done in those short but precious periods of time. How?

By focusing on small but significant tasks. By thinking strategically. By writing in sprints.
Knowing I have a limited period of time helps me concentrate on a single task, focusing my energy and attention. With a block of several hours, I can fool myself and fritter away an hour "warming up" or surfing the Web. But with only 30 minutes? I’m racing against the clock.
Even when I'm not waiting for someone, I can set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes to do a writing sprint. The key to making this period productive is to focus on one small, specific task that can be accomplished in that short time span.
What can be done in short sprints of focused writing?  Here are a few ideas:
  • Titles
  • Headings
  • Interview questions
  • Theme
  • Points to make
  • Possible structures
  • Topics for new projects
  • Search for sources
  • Peruse an article or chapter
  • Take notes
  • Identify experts
  • Search for photos
  • Opening sentences
  • Outline or table of contents
  • Section or subsection
Revising and Editing
  • Rewrite a section
  • Edit a chapter, focusing on a single issue
  • Pare word count
  • Do a writing exercise
  • Read an article or chapter on craft
  • Analyze a mentor text
  • Write a pitch
  • Compose a query letter
  • List publishers or magazines for your project
  • Analyze content of a magazine
  • Analyze a publisher's catalog or website
 Try mixing in sprints with your writing marathons. Like interval training in physical exercise, doing short, intense bursts of activity can build up your writing muscles and increase your productivity.


  1. This is the only way I get any writing done at all! I call it ‘writing in the cracks of life’ but I like the powerful imagery behind sprints.

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  3. This is great. As a retired professor, I am conditioned to plan in terms of writing blocks, usually an hour minimum, for tasks such as correcting papers. Your practical list helps me see other important tasks I can do when all I have is a few minutes. Thanks, Christin!