#madwriting

April 20, 2011

The notion that 30 minutes of sustained writing is “madwriting” as if it is some sort of miracle of concentration and productivity is fascinating.
If you had asked me before a day or two ago what I considered highly focused and concentrated writing, I would have said something around about 3-4 hour blocks. If I can get those in, I see some serious progress made on manuscripts or grant applications. Or animal use protocols, or biohazards protocols, or chemical hazards protocols.
And when I’m trying to hit a grant deadline, I’m going to need to put in several of these, anywhere from 5 to 10….and that’s when the writing is going well. Plus, I’ve been doing this for awhile so it isn’t exactly novel behavior…
Writing my dissertation? I was putting in 3-4 hour blocks of time one to two times per day for weeks. That was #madwriting*.
30 minute writing sprints?
Well, I suppose it is very good practice for 4pm on a grant deadline day when the admin says “Where’s the Abstract, Statement of Public Health Relevance and did you update the personal statement on your Biosketch?”
__
*there were circumstances. there usually are…
Additional Reading
The Twitter Phenomenon of #madwriting

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11 Responses to “#madwriting”

  1. Dr. O Says:

    I can see a 30-minute writing block as a good way to get me into the flow. But I rarely get much substantial done in that kind of time frame. Except for blogging.

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  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    I am not suggesting there is no purpose to 30-min writing blocks. There most certainly is and they can be productive for certain tasks.
    I think, however, if you are trying to do some serious big-scale writing like a dissertation, grant or major drafting on a manuscript and you think you can do it in 30 min sessions, this is a mistake. Or a sign that you need to address some other schtuffe in your writing environment like signing off of the Twitterz!

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  3. I see “mad writing” as an offshoot of the time-management movement exemplified by Pomodoro, in which you do shorter work sprints with more frequent, though short, breaks. It’s actually been pretty helpful for me in my writing and work in general when I do a whole bunch in a row.

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  4. Mr. Gunn Says:

    Can we leave the “more hardcore than thou” out of this for a sec? It’s just a group of people motivating one another and they’re writing all sorts of things. Using 30 minute blocks makes it easy to grab several blocks in the course of a busy day.
    So, yes, you are more hardcore and they should bow before your mighty attention span and focus. Feel better now?

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  5. Neurobonkers Says:

    Everyone has they’re own writing style personally I agree with you but hey, each to his own.
    The whole madwriting thing I just found annoying because, erm frankly I really couldn’t care less how many words per minute someone just wrote unless they happen to be writing lines for something they did wrong.I actually unfollowed a couple of people just to avoid sifting through nonsense.
    I think there’s two types of people on twitter, those who use it exclusively for link sharing and those who use it for chatting, the two don’t mix well…

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  6. katiesci Says:

    I think it’s a great tool for busy people. If a million things are going on, I have a hard time sitting down to write knowing I’m going to have to spend 3-4 hours doing it (like I usually do). I’ll tend to put writing off until I can block that much time out of my day which is often difficult to do. But anyone can take 30 min to bust something out even if it’s an outline or a really rough draft. That’s much better to look at than a blank screen or page the next time I sit down to it.

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  7. nparmalee Says:

    This brings up a very good point, and I’m glad you raised it. To me, it seems self evident that the ability to focus for long, sustained period of time is necessary to accomplish just about anything of value. One concept, that isn’t my idea at all, is that the need for large blocks of time can also end up being an impediment. If that is the *only* way a person can work effectively, it’s not uncommon for people to delay starting until there is enough protected time to work uninterrupted for 8, 10, 12 hours at a stretch. Sometimes life doesn’t cooperate with that model.
    When I was teaching writing, I read a lot about writing to be able to share ideas with my students, but I don’t have any of those sources nearby now, so I can only reference general ideas (I’d look them up, but I actually need to get back to writing).
    It can be difficult to get 8 hours of protected writing time, but it’s not difficult to get 30 minutes, commit to pushing aside all distractions, refuse to check email (or twitter), and just write. There are a lot of tools in the toolbox. This is one, but certainly not the only one.
    I remember reading somewhere that it is not common for failed academics to wait and wait for those long stretches of uninterrupted time that never come. Until the tenure clock runs out. The advice given was to seize small chunks of time and just write.
    Personally, I do prefer writing in longer stretches. When the stars are aligned, a long stretch for me is about 10 hours. Realistically, this doesn’t happen every day, so when it’s not happening, I can employ a different strategy.
    For students (or anyone) having trouble getting started, there are books to read, writing philosophies to think about, psychoanalysis to be done, etc, etc, but the final answer is always going to be the same. Write. Write now. Stop thinking about it, and just write.
    Which I have to go do now 🙂

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  8. becca Says:

    Anyone who thinks sprints can’t be mad has not done sufficient 100m butterflies on collapsing intervals.

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  9. KMB Says:

    Are you… (a) jealous, (b) bored by our tweets and unaware of the ability to BLOCK A HASHTAG, or (c) just that bitchy?
    To state the painfully obvious, #madwriting is a writing group. Simple. Like many that have come before, it works. Supporting each other in writing sprints WORKS. Like it, don’t like it, who cares? It’s working for a group of people who are much, much happier and more productive since April 2nd when a certain wonderful woman named Nancy got us off our collective sad asses and motivated us to write together. Yes, there is #madediting (which often takes longer than the 30-minute #madwriting) but dude, the 30-minute freewrites are about getting UNSTUCK. If you are such a king of all that is productive and never get stuck that is wonderful for you. But I don’t believe that to be the case. I think you are just being bitter and cynical and unnecessarily poking into our business.
    Find something else to rag on and let us get back to #madwriting.
    -@KMBTweets.

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  10. I think there’s two types of people on twitter, those who use it exclusively for link sharing and those who use it for chatting, the two don’t mix well…

    I agree completely that there are two types of people on twitter: those who are ridiculous fuckewittes and those who are absurd dumshittes.

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  11. LC Says:

    No-talk Thursdays = genius. Quality writing is like quality sleep, you need time to get into the deeper stages…
    Worth watching:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/jason_fried_why_work_doesn_t_happen_at_work.html

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