This is a follow-up to my post entitled How to Cheat on a 10-K Day
First, I’d like to say that I had very low expectations on myself in terms of productivity. I had been too busy to write for quite some months beforehand and I simply wanted to feel creative again and have some fun. I made a list of writing to work on, but I didn’t set a word count for myself. I vaguely had it in my mind that I would be over the moon to get 5,000 words done.
What I discovered was that this exercise pulled things out of me I didn’t know I was capable of. Even though I cheated by getting up late (it was Sunday and I wanted to sleep in), once I got there I stuck to the routine and it worked like a charm. I ended up with 10,277 words. I wrote 10 articles and finished a short story I’d started weeks ago.
Before you go thinking I’m some sort of Amazon woman that you could never live up to, please hear me out. I have never been one for productivity over creativity. I would rather nurse my fear of writing than be what I call a typing maniac. But there’s something about the routine of the 10-K Day that produces super-human efforts—and with much less strain and resistance than I ever thought possible.
Think of it this way. On Saturday I wrote a 1,500 word article because I felt passionate about the topic. On Sunday, my official 10-K Day, I simply did that over and over. In fact, some of the articles were only five or six hundred words long . . . approximately a page in Word. We can all write a page, right? OK, so just repeat that simple activity over and over again.
The list of writing I wanted to get done consisted mostly of articles. I look forward to trying this next time with fiction. That scares me a bit more, actually, but I do believe I’m more capable of writing 10,000-word slabs for a book manuscript than I’d realized. Now all I need is a decent idea for a novel.
My 10-K partner, Jenny, and I wrote in two-hour blocks, usually with a 15-20 minute break in between. During the breaks, we reported our progress by email. Apart from seeing my word count build almost magically, the break report was one of the thrilling parts of the day’s routine. I looked forward to sharing my progress with Jenny and hearing her amazing results also.
As Jenny said during her Break Three report: “Isn’t it different from how it sounds in the article? (10K in a Day) It’s so hard to explain what it’s like to be working *with* someone, even if you’re not actually in the same room or on the same time pattern. I just LOVE this.”
I have to agree with Jenny. Doing it with a friend, even though I’m in Texas and she’s in Wisconsin (and despite the fact that she gets up at the crack of dawn and I’m a late riser on Sundays), added so much motivation to the day it’s hard to imagine doing one of these marathons alone.
By the end of the third session, I was royally burnt out. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t imagine facing two more sessions and churning out another 4,000 words.
With starting so late (I didn’t write my first word until 9:25 a.m.), I could only look forward to finishing late. At my typing speed of 45-50 WPM it takes around 12 hours, including breaks, to reach the goal.
Even so, I decided to have a longer break after the third session to try to revive myself. I took a shower, put on some fresh clothes and had something to eat. I was prepared to also go do something relaxing, such as read a light magazine—but to my surprise, by the time I was finished eating I was eager to dive in again. Not only that, another idea for a new article had come to me while was I snacking on my bowl of cereal. When I got back to the computer, I promptly wrote the new article and it turned into 1,215 words. Wow!
A Good Trick I Learned Along the Way
If I didn’t know how to start my next piece of writing, instead of sitting there pondering it I would immediately jump in and start writing a later section of the article. If the inspiration for my first paragraph came in the middle of that, I would break off and go start at the beginning. In this way, I might have three sections started and add to whichever was foremost in my mind.
This has a huge therapeutic effect—an enormous boost of confidence in your ability to write without stopping to edit or even trying to write in sequential order. This built a new level of trust in my writing: I proved to myself that I can write like the dickens for an entire day and then go back later to apply the finishing touches.
What I Would Do Differently Next Time
For a case of burnout, I would use a packet or two of my special fizzy drink (Emergen-C Joint Health Formula, Tangerine Flavor) to help restore the electrolytes to my body. I forgot I had a box of these sitting in the house. By the way, I get the kind with the least sugar.
To try to avoid burnout altogether, instead of just the 15 minutes every two hours I intend to take several longer breaks next time. Also, the shower and change of clothes during the late afternoon worked wonders, so I’ll definitely incorporate that into the schedule.
My back started getting sore from sitting at my desk all day. Next time, I’ll make it a point to walk around a bit more during my breaks. I can also use Feeling Good at Workby massage therapist Robin Segal—an illustrated, spiral-bound workbook designed to help desk jocks limber up during the work day.
(I must admit I would find it almost impossible to make myself get up and stretch during a 10-K session. I became so absorbed in my writing, I was aware of time passing only when I completed another article and stopped to jot down what time I’d finished it.)
I believe the benefits of losing myself in my writing for a whole day are worth a little discomfort. I’ll make up for it tomorrow by going for a walk and doing some extra stretches.
If you do happen to end up with persistent back pain after a 10-K Day, try The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Reliefby Clair and Amber Davies.
Even better (and easier): Healing Back Pain by Dr. John E. Sarno.
A 10-K Day is not about perfect writing. You’re inevitably going to rewrite or even completely cut some of the words you’ve written—and this is as it should be. “The art of writing is in the rewriting.”
(Who said that? I don’t remember, but I’m a believer!)
For me, the 10-K Day has been a gigantic eye-opener. We tend to go through life believing we’re capable of much less than we really are. I’ve compared myself to more “prolific” writers so often I actually came to believe they were born that way and I wasn’t.
Now I know.
Not that I now believe in the value of productivity over creativity. Instead I made a quantum leap into believing both are possible. They don’t always have to be in the same moment, or even the same day. But there are days when we can live the life of a genius—if we do a little preparation and stick to a proven formula.
Geniuses are geniuses, in part, because they produce a lot of ideas and then try them out. Ideas can always be discarded if they don’t work. But testing ideas can lead to other, unexpected treasures.
So it can be with writing. It all starts with an idea.
Related post: How to Cheat on a 10-K Day