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Writing Tools & Strategies: Five minutes to story

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Internet Tools for Writers

Start off the week with a quick batch of 5-minute timed writings. To make it easy, I’ve found a handy tool called TimeLeft. In minutes I had the program downloaded and installed. Ten minutes later I had a clock, a stopwatch, a 5-minute timer, a countdown clock, and a sign on my screen. There are any number of uses for the program but for writers the timers, countdowns, and stop watches can actually become part of a strategy to make sure time is spent writing. So what is TimeLeft?

TimeLeft is a versatile desktop utility, which may be used as a countdown clock, reminder, clock, alarm clock, tray clock, stopwatch, timer, sticker, auction watch and time synchronization utility.

Since I’m such a fan of timed writing exercises, I created the 5-minute timer first. I suffer from major muscle spasms and often need a timer or stopwatch. I have to make myself get up from the computer every hour to give my neck, upper back, and shoulder a break, so I write for 45 minutes and then walk away for 15. So a 45 minute tool is on my to-do list.

When it comes to writing, I pretty much have two words that make up my discipline: “breathe” and “write.” Using the signage utility I created a stamp that displays those words so they constantly inform my subconscious during my time at the computer. All these items that TimeLeft creates stay on the computer screen and are visible no matter what program you are using. I have mine in the lower righthand corner. Finally I have a countdown clock that lets me know how many months, days, hours, minutes and seconds until the new year. With NaNoWriMo around the bend, I’m sure I’ll set one up for the month of November. The countdown can be used for writing or contract deadlines, contest deadline reminders, and those personal phantom deadlines. Because I’ll be going back to the Donald Maass Intensive workshop in Portland in March of 2008 and want to have a completed first draft of my novel, I will also need a countdown clock for that, too.

Over the last 20+ years I’ve discovered many different strategies that have enabled me to stay engaged with my work, actively creating stories, and remaining full of energy and the desire to write. If one doesn’t work, I go quickly to another. All have been tested by me and by my fellow writers and artists; they work. But when it comes down to it, the best way to remain productive is to breathe deeply, relax, and write.

To download TimeLeft, go here.

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  • Eli

    OK, you hooked me. I’m going to download right away.
    I have a habit of becoming so focused on my writing that I stay way too long at the computer. A timer works well…when I remember to set it. (not too often, I’m afraid) But this should be great as it will be right in front of me.
    Thanks for the info.