How a kitchen timer can be a writer’s best friend

If timing yourself can help bolster your confidence and spur yourself to become more prolific, why not give it a shot?

The rest of the universe, however, was stunned. The world record (until then, 4:01.4) had stood for nine years, and sportswriters of the day had created an enormous mystique around the four-minute mark. They convinced a willing-to-believe public that it was an unreachable, unrealistic, and possibly even dangerous goal.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Well, the Bannister story sprang to my mind recently as I was coaching a client who was thoroughly convinced that she could not write quickly. She’s not alone in her passionately held belief.

Just as people in the 1950s had convinced themselves that a mile could not be run in four minutes, many of us have convinced ourselves that we cannot write quickly. (To put a number to it, let’s say that’s something like 500 words in 30 minutes.)

Of course, I’ve had the bad writing days, too—days when 500 words in five hours would have seemed like an achievement. You cannot write quickly when you’re exhausted or dispirited or when you don’t have a clue about what you want to say. But if you have a topic you’re reasonably keen on and knowledgeable about, there’s no good reason why the words can’t fly off your fingers, why you can’t write as fast as you can type.

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