Now that I’m off for the summer, I find that having too much time is a detriment to my writing.

I don’t have limits to sharpen my focus.

During the school year, teaching eats up my day. I can’t write, but I do find that chapters are taking shape in the back of my mind. People who catch me muttering to myself are probably getting a glimpse of some upcoming dialogue. When I get home from work, there are other obstacles: doctor’s appointments, chauffeuring the kids, cooking dinner. And all the while, scenes are knitting themselves together in my brain.

When I finally sit down with a limited time to write, it comes out in a torrent.

This summer, with oodles of time, there are lots of things that distract me from writing OR subconsciously planning what happens next – including stuff that I am blocked from doing when I’m at work: reading and responding to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. I’m like a kid in a candy shop!

Luckily, I’ve discovered resources for providing focus. One is #1k1hr on Twitter – and thank you to Tawna Fenske for introducing me to it. Simply put, you commit yourself to writing at least 1,000 words and writing continuously for at least 1 hour. If you reach the word goal before the hour is up, you keep writing. If the hour ends and you haven’t reached 1,000 words, you keep writing. The object is to meet both goals.

A similar, but more flexible resource is The Practice Room – and thank you to Heather Kelly for inviting me. In the Practice Room, you meet with other writers to set goals, unplug for an hour (unplug email, FB, Twitter) and write, then meet back in The Practice Room to discuss.

What #1k1hr and The Practice Room do is promote fluency. It’s kind of a slap-your-head thing for me, because as a teacher, I know the value of promoting fluency in reading and writing with my students. I just never tried it on myself.

Fluency = getting it down, even if you know it’s going to need smoothing over later. There’s no stopping to find that perfect word or phrase – write something down and fix it later. There’s no diverting into 45 minutes of research to find the correct name of a specific 19th Century railroad – make something up and do the research later.

It’s pretty strange that limiting my time has actually proved more useful than sitting for hours in front of a computer screen. Apparently, I need the distraction of other activities to complete my sub-conscious planning. And I need the pressure of having just a brief time to write in order to improve my fluency.

What works for you?