Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

Every year, I poll my Misfits on Facebook and ask what topics they’d like me to cover in the coming year. Inevitably, someone will ask about time management. My very best advice is the Pomodoro Method, but sometimes, despite your best intentions, you just can’t seem to find the time.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts today, and if you’re unlike me, and you don’t need, or can’t find, dedicated writing time to let your mind unwind, you might like what I call Stealth Mode.

In October of 2020, Briana Slate and I led a free writing workshop, and during one of the live video chats, one of the participants mentioned that because of his ADHD, he was better at writing in spurts as ideas came to him, and that is the basis of Stealth Mode.

Essentially, the principle is the opposite of traditional writing advice. Gone are the quiet spaces, ambient music, and comfortable chairs with lumbar support. Rather, you write on the fly, phrase by phrase, when you get struck by inspiration or find a spare second. If you have a busy lifestyle or you find it difficult to focus for long periods, or you can’t always get to a computer, this method might be for you.

Some suggestions:

  • Use your phone’s voice recorder or speech-to-text to dictate ideas as you think of them.
  • Have a quick access word processing app ready to jot down ideas between rounds of household chores. I like Evernote, some prefer Google Docs. I’ve even heard of someone who used a personal Discord server.
  • Use the time on a commute to jot down ideas. If you’re driving, use your voice recorder to voice-to-speech.
  • Try to sneak some notes while under the guise of doing something else. I used to write during class (don’t do that, lol) or during DnD games.
  • Get up a little early or go to bed a little late. Just 5 minutes is enough, sometimes.
  • Write with your morning coffee instead of reading the news or scrolling through social media.
  • Get a Distraction Pad- a notepad for jotting down things that distract you when you’re trying to focus. This can work both ways. If you get an idea at work, jot it down and come back to it on your break. Alternatively, if you actually are writing actively and you remember something you’re supposed to do that could take you away from writing, like dishes or laundry, write that down and deal with it when your timer runs out.

Just generally see where you have periods of free time throughout the day, and if you find you have the energy, try to get some ideas out. You might find it more fulfilling than watching tv in the evening or doom scrolling on your coffee break.

Multitasking is becoming recognised as actually the bane of productivity, rather than the secret. But most people have busy lives, where sitting down and writing for 8 hours at a time just isn’t possible. Go easy on yourself, and just keep plugging away at it.

Bonus pro tip:

Ok, so you found your fifteen minutes, but you don’t know how to get real writing done, now that you have it. Stream of consciousness. I know that sounds counterintuitive- why would you waste precious time on literal nonsense? But it’s like a stuck pipe, you have to flush out what’s in there to get it flowing again. If I focus too much on what time I don’t have, I psych myself out and waste all of that time scrolling. And honestly, sometimes the act of writing at all is enough to start it up.

Literally write whatever comes into your head, even if it’s ‘I don’t know what to write this is so pointless I only have ten minutes and I have no ideas.’ In my experience, it usually starts off like that, and then I drop into ‘well I guess I can talk about that time Alois wanted to host a party and he made a mess of it. Yeah, so what happened was-‘ and before you know it, you have Country Dances. Just open up the hatch and see what falls out.

And if you’re not sure what Camp NaNo is, I’ve made a video you can watch, here.

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