How to Build Up Stamina As A Writer

I often write about the positive aspects of regular freewriting, and I am especially enthusiastic about the positive qualities of freewriting marathons.

A common reaction I hear about the idea of doing an eight hour writing marathon is that it must be exhausting. In my experience, it is far more draining to sit and deliberate than it is to write without stopping for several hours.

When I write nonstop, I get into the flow, and that feels good. When I sit and think of ideas and wrestle with myself as to whether they’re any good or not, it sucks my energy. My head feels heavy. I’d rather just crawl back into bed. I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I don’t feel like doing anything — just zoning out.

It’s not actually that difficult to get to a place where you can write more or less as much as you want. Nonstop. And when you’re finished writing, you feel energized, jazzed, enthusiastic, full of possibilities.

But if you’re new to the idea of freewriting for longer sessions, you might be wondering how to make all this happen.

Here is a plan for how you can work up to doing eight hour writing marathons without getting RSI, gaining a bunch of weight, or frazzling your brain.

Put in positive terms, this plan shows you how to write more, feel vitalized by your writing, and also improve you energy level and overall clarity and well being.

A writer’s life put in perspective

What feels better than knowing you made a ton of headway on a difficult project? When your writing is going well, everything else in your life — your relationships, your work/home balance, your overall motivational state — gets bumped up a notch or two.

How we feel is the average of the various aspects of life. If your career sucks, hopefully you can take solace in your home life or your spiritual life or a hobby. But it can be hard to make any headway when two or more areas of life are suffering.

When your writing is really flowing well, it becomes something that spills positivity into the rest of your life.

That same can-do spirit shows opportunities and gives you the motivation to do what otherwise wouldn’t feel possible. You can show up for your family in ways you haven’t been because you’ve been carrying around your writing like an obligation or a chore or, worse yet, a failure.

The plan

For the first week…

1 – A single twenty minute freewriting session

  1. Prepare yourself. Get anything you need ready and available. Clean workspace, no interruptions.
  2. Write for twenty minutes nonstop.
  3. Take a ten minute break. Stretch. Go for a walk. Breathe deeply.

That’s it!

Here are some great stretches you can do to help prevent RSI, etc:

2 – Two twenty minute writing sessions in the same day

  • Do these either back to back or at any point throughout the day.
  • Take a ten minute break after each of them, especially if you do them back-to-back.

The breaks are an important part of making the whole thing work.

It’s not all about constant productivity. The idea is to show yourself that productivity is not something you have to grasp tightly. More and more, it can come on command.

The idea is not to control everything, but rather to set the parameters for productivity. If you don’t show up, you’re not going to get anything done. If you show up only when things are going well, then what can you do when things don’t magically line up for you?

This process ensures that you can become more productive and more effective without burning out.

You don’t need to be overly rigid about any of this. If things are going especially well, and you want to spend an extra couple of minutes writing, then that’s what you choose to do. Just be mindful of when that happens.

3 – Block out an hour

Once you level up to the hour-long writing session, here is how to structure that:

  1. 20 minute session
  2. 10 minute break
  3. 30 minute session

From here you can start to see how you can easily build upon this by simply adding another hour in the same pattern.

4 – Two hours

Ensure that you will not be interrupted. Use the bathroom and get anything you might want or need.

I also suggest having more than a single way to write. For example, a standing desk and a sitting desk. Two different keyboards. Some mix of typing, writing by hand, and voice dictation. Mix it up during the “change modalities” phase or as needed.

  1. Write for 45 minutes without stopping
  2. Take a 15 minute break — go outside, move, breathe deeply. Reset.
  3. Return for another 45 minute burst, changing modalities.
  4. Finish with a 15 minute break.

5 – Longer sessions

From this point onward, adding an hour or more is not much of a problem. Once you can do more than two hours, you can see how it becomes doable to add more hours as needed.

You can choose to make these sessions gradually longer or you can plop yourself right into an 8 hour writing marathon if you want. By now, you know that you have what it takes to make this a success. That’s not to say it will feel easy all of the way through, or that you are guaranteed to write nonstop gold. But you have built up the stamina and self-forgiveness necessary to write and write and write…
…. and write
…. …. and write ….

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