“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

Donald Miller’s Secret Egg Timer

Donald Miller http://thewritepractice.comHow do you stay focused when you’re writing?

I was in the middle of a ghostwriting project, and I kept hitting a wall. One problem after another and I just couldn’t think a way out. How did I deal with it?

Facebook games, obviously. CityVille. Kingdoms of Camelot. Zynga Poker when things were going really bad.

Unfortunately, my “solution” only seemed to make things worse. I needed to refocus. That’s when I remembered a trick Donald Miller uses: a kitchen timer. When he needs to focus on one thing for a while, he just sets his timer.

It worked for Don, but would it work for me? I started scrounging around the internet looking for a digital egg timer until finally I found one I liked.

Introducing e.ggtimer.com, the simple online timer.

I started using my new e.ggtimer on my book project to great success. I would set it for thirty minutes, and take a break for five minutes to get my Zynga on.

I also started using it for my morning free writes, trying to write a single-spaced page of prose in thirty minutes. It pushed me to write more freely and not overthink it.

 

PRACTICE

Try it out. Use your e.ggtimer to freewrite for fifteen minutes, writing about anything and everything that comes to mind. You can even start your writing with, “I don’t know why I’m doing this it’s so stupid but some idiot told me to do it so I’m going to try.”

If, at the end of your fifteen minutes, your practice is so terrible you’re ashamed of posting it, just post it as Anonymous. No one will know!

And don’t forget to give feedback on other writers’ practices.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Joe Bunting

    In the end, it’s about the memories. He thought of his day on the beach in September. The fall was early and the breeze coming off the sea was cold and left goosebumps on his arms and bare legs. He walked along the empty coast barefoot. There was no place else to go but down, down past the inlet, past the blue house they’d rented summers ago, past the rocks piled along the shore. He walked until there were no houses and no beach towels and nothing but the sand, the sound of the waves, the tall sandstone cliffs. He took off his shirt and sauntered into the water. He walked into the waves and they broke over him and he came up wiping the water from his eyes and panting and he was at peace. He swam. It was a good day.

    He remembered the parties: birthday parties and house warming parties and homecoming parties. They were happy blurs, the warm colors of smiling faces and the beautiful houses he had lived in and drinks beside fireplaces late into the night. He didn’t remember what he said or what the others said. He barely remembered who the faces belonged to. The memories were like an abstract painting, color and suggestion but nothing discernable. He was happy with that.

    He remembered the day he had met her. She, the best friend of a friend, was “in town for business,” she said, when he saw her in the crosswalk on State Street. He was going one way, she the other. He stopped. “Alice?”

    ….. and then time’s up. Now I can go back to my Facebook game 😉 just kidding.

  • We’re a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with valuable info to paintings on. You have done an impressive process and our entire group will be grateful to you.

  • Alex Hoffman

    Sometimes I think I have too many interests. Philosophy, programming, business, investing, guitar, music in general, encryption, art, video games, writing, and the list goes on. Forever I see that it’s best to specialize. Find what you are good at (and like) and stick with it. But where does this leave me? I like all of these things, and I have skill in several. What am I supposed to do? Is it so wrong to have a broad range of interests? Is it only possible for me to be a jack of all trades and master of none or one? Are there limits, both physical and temporal?

    Some may suggest that I go with what I feel that I am called to do, or with what I feel I can make a difference in. The problem here is that I can see myself making a difference in all of these areas, given enough time. I want to make a difference in all of these areas. I want to make discoveries, both in science and in philosophy. I want to make great music. I want to write great programs and great stories. I both want to and think I am able to make a difference in all of these areas, but is there time?

    Time. Time seems to be the enemy here. There is only so much of it. Only so much that I have access to, and everything I want to do requires so much of it. What’s worse is that I am a natural waster of time. Am I doomed already? Is there nothing I can do? Should I just specialize? Choose something and run with it?

    Everyone seems to have their specialty. That one thing that they are good at. What’s mine? Do I only have one? Is it possible to have many? Could my specialty be my skill and interest in many things? Is that even a specialty? Or could it be the case that I haven’t found my true specialty yet, but rather just a bunch of second-order interests? This seems unlikely. I’ve tried about everything. It’s far more likely I just get to be multi-talented.

    So what do I do? Do I choose a specialty at random, or do I work to master them all? Is that even possible? Is there enough time? Time. There’s that word again. I’m always worried about time. Perhaps this is the problem. I shouldn’t worry about time. I should just do everything. All of it, and not worry about how much time it takes.

    • Great practice Alex. Thanks for swinging by. I like how you process through this. I was going through the same process a few years ago. I had way too many options, but I couldn’t decide. The break through came when two things happened:

      1. A bunch of people said I was good at one of them.
      2. I chose.

      What do people say you’re good at? Sometimes it’s easier for others to see our potential than it is for us. And after that, you just have to pick one and commit for a while (usually a lot longer than you want to).

      • Alex Hoffman

        Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

        In a way, I kind of have chosen a path toward philosophy. That seems to be where freewritings like this tend to go (I have another piece I’ve done recently that is similar to this, only it discusses the nature of fear and courage), and it pops up in several other places in my life.

        I mostly have a musician’s mindset in that I want to be good in a certain area, but I don’t want to be trapped in that area.

        • I think you have to commit for a certain period of time. Maybe 3 months is the minimum. You set a goal, then you follow through, a little bit every day. It helps no one to jump around to a thousand different things.

  • Alex Hoffman

    Sometimes I think I have too many interests. Philosophy, programming, business, investing, guitar, music in general, encryption, art, video games, writing, and the list goes on. Forever I see that it’s best to specialize. Find what you are good at (and like) and stick with it. But where does this leave me? I like all of these things, and I have skill in several. What am I supposed to do? Is it so wrong to have a broad range of interests? Is it only possible for me to be a jack of all trades and master of none or one? Are there limits, both physical and temporal?

    Some may suggest that I go with what I feel that I am called to do, or with what I feel I can make a difference in. The problem here is that I can see myself making a difference in all of these areas, given enough time. I want to make a difference in all of these areas. I want to make discoveries, both in science and in philosophy. I want to make great music. I want to write great programs and great stories. I both want to and think I am able to make a difference in all of these areas, but is there time?

    Time. Time seems to be the enemy here. There is only so much of it. Only so much that I have access to, and everything I want to do requires so much of it. What’s worse is that I am a natural waster of time. Am I doomed already? Is there nothing I can do? Should I just specialize? Choose something and run with it?

    Everyone seems to have their specialty. That one thing that they are good at. What’s mine? Do I only have one? Is it possible to have many? Could my specialty be my skill and interest in many things? Is that even a specialty? Or could it be the case that I haven’t found my true specialty yet, but rather just a bunch of second-order interests? This seems unlikely. I’ve tried about everything. It’s far more likely I just get to be multi-talented.

    So what do I do? Do I choose a specialty at random, or do I work to master them all? Is that even possible? Is there enough time? Time. There’s that word again. I’m always worried about time. Perhaps this is the problem. I shouldn’t worry about time. I should just do everything. All of it, and not worry about how much time it takes.

    • Great practice Alex. Thanks for swinging by. I like how you process through this. I was going through the same process a few years ago. I had way too many options, but I couldn’t decide. The break through came when two things happened:

      1. A bunch of people said I was good at one of them.
      2. I chose.

      What do people say you’re good at? Sometimes it’s easier for others to see our potential than it is for us. And after that, you just have to pick one and commit for a while (usually a lot longer than you want to).

      • Alex Hoffman

        Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

        In a way, I kind of have chosen a path toward philosophy. That seems to be where freewritings like this tend to go (I have another piece I’ve done recently that is similar to this, only it discusses the nature of fear and courage), and it pops up in several other places in my life.

        I mostly have a musician’s mindset in that I want to be good in a certain area, but I don’t want to be trapped in that area.

        • I think you have to commit for a certain period of time. Maybe 3 months is the minimum. You set a goal, then you follow through, a little bit every day. It helps no one to jump around to a thousand different things.

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  • Mike Zserdin

    I like the “not overthink…” ! Good thoughts.. I set a time 50 minutes on 10 minutes of random musings…but I work and don’t move for the 50 minutes.

  • Mike Zserdin

    I like the “not overthink…” ! Good thoughts.. I set a time 50 minutes on 10 minutes of random musings…but I work and don’t move for the 50 minutes.

  • Stéphanie Noël

    When getting rough first drafts done (Nanowrimo) I like to use write or die (http://writeordie.com/). It helps me write without thinking too much. Plus you can also set a specific word count to finish within the selected period of time. Also, the consequences for not writing are enough to keep you going. When working on smaller projects or editing, I like to use toggl.com. It’s a counter but it counts up and you can manage different projects at the same time. So at the end of the week, I can know exactly when I wrote what and what % of my time I spent on the different projects. Best of all, it’s free.

    • Sandra D

      Thanks. I didn’t know about either of these.

  • When getting rough first drafts done (Nanowrimo) I like to use write or die (http://writeordie.com/). It helps me write without thinking too much. Plus you can also set a specific word count to finish within the selected period of time. Also, the consequences for not writing are enough to keep you going. When working on smaller projects or editing, I like to use toggl.com. It’s a counter but it counts up and you can manage different projects at the same time. So at the end of the week, I can know exactly when I wrote what and what % of my time I spent on the different projects. Best of all, it’s free.

  • Catfood

    I don’t know why I’m going to do this, but some idiot told me to do it so I’m going to try.

    As always, the area near ‘Fontana di Trevi’ is packed. I feel thankful for the warmth found throughout the Italian summer, the tourists wore less clothing, which I suppose might make this endeavour slightly easier.
    It’s taking a while to pluck up my courage, and I’m allowing myself to get distracted by the scintillating copper lights, reflecting off of the bottom of the fountain. It’s no wonder idiots flock here, dumb animals love shiny objects.

    When I get nudged by an apologetic Frenchman’s shoulder, I decide that it might be time to try my luck. I follow the same man that bumped into me not a moment ago. His stupid purple cardigan tied at his shoulders, those dumb white pants… If anyone was a likely target, it was him. As I pick up just enough speed to reach him, as my forehead starts to dampen, and my palms glow with moisture, I extend my arm towards him. My hand tries to grasp the wallet, and instead ends up groping his behind. Well, at the very least, I managed to steal a smile from him.

    Damnit. How am I ever gonna get home?

  • Thomas

    Utopia was in ruin. The
    walls were splattered with dents and holes, while the houses within
    weren’t much better. The poor people who lived within were starving,
    and no one dared leave the city. Outside, the remnants of wars past
    built up into a nuclear wasteland. It all seemed so useless. Human
    life had its chance, and now, the last of human influence was coming
    to an end. Human life wasn’t going to go out with a great explosion,
    but with the whimper of a starving child.

    Tracy drew her coat around her. The desert nights were too cold, and the days too hot.
    Sometimes her coat was her saving grace, and at others it was her
    bane. Her breath marked the cold air with wisps of cloudy white, as
    though she was breathing out her very soul. Who was she kidding?
    There was nothing left in that impoverished heart of hers. No soul
    lived inside. Trembling, she found her feet for a stroll.

    The city streets were quiet, for a time. The people were either huddled away to conserve heat, or dead. It wasn’t unheard of that well-known and richer
    families starved, while the poorer survived the night. Lady liberty
    was cruel to her masters. Lady luck on the other hand, always
    favoured Tracy. Just last night, she had found bread at the side of
    her earthen pillow, and today it had given her the energy to return
    to her home. A fight was a fight, and her mother would surely forgive
    her poor starved daughter, but she wouldn’t feed her.
    There wasn’t enough food for that. Her fat, older brother would get
    it all. He always did. For if her were to die, how would they
    continue the family name.

    She hated the family name. She’s changed her name too. Any influence from
    her mother was bad, it was evil and she would seek to destroy it. By
    birth she was princess Amelia Black, but by choice, Tracy Sparrows.

    A shadow swung down before her. It was a man, poorly built, with a
    stunted height, but that didn’t surprise her. What she was drawn to
    was the golden badge of merit that hung from his cloak like a beacon
    on the dark cloth. He used to be an officer, before they had all
    deserted. There was no time for questions. She should have ran, but
    what first came to her lips were the words “Poor soul, lost soul.
    Where are your brethren now?”

    “They are lost among the sands, hopefully spluttering to death among the
    darkness.” He shifted uneasily. He didn’t mean those words. They
    were wasted on them. That was clear.

    “They have made their choice, and you yours. But that also draws the
    question, why have you come here, to me?” The silence and the
    tension could be cut with a knife, just like the one that she had
    hidden away in her robes. She could defend herself, if needs be.

    “Princess, I have come to r

    This is as far as I got XD

    • Sandra D

      That sounds like a great start to a story.

  • Sandra D

    The egg time is so useful to me. I use it every time I write now. I used to write for maybe five minutes and think I had written a long time, but with the eggtimer I get to know exactly how much time I’ve put in.

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  • I’ve looked at a few online alarms/ timers but haven’t found one I like yet. So until I do, I may just stick with the egg timer I found in a store with the sounds of either rain ocean dockside or a brook there are three timer settings 15 minutes (perfect for here) 30 or 45 , when the sounds stop so does the writing or what ever activity you use it for, I often listen to it as I fall asleep great when I cant hear the ocean on a regular basis.

  • Will

    (I don’t think this went too well. Freewriting is not my strength.)

    A string of pearls, encapsulating sound. The viola’s melody winds itself around the notes, rising, falling, until it reaches that sublime climax, the high note in the highest string.

    She can feel the viola’s strings vibrating under her fingers. The gentlest buzz beneath the steadiness of her grip. She lets herself, finally, go, and sways her upper body around, years of practice which forced her to stay stock-still while playing suddenly abandoned.

    She hadn’t ever felt like this before. Viola playing was only another school subject for her; it was never linked to tender romantic fancies, throbbing heartstrings and soaring passion. But a grade could never fire one’s passion for music, and once she had finally picked up that unknown tune and began improvising a corner of her mind opened up to a world of unknown beauty.

    What made her want to play? She couldn’t tell, not even now. Music was so transient – it began one moment and stopped the next. In her recitals, she had always felt that time passed by too quickly. Her nerves, her sweating made it so. She was averse to playing before an audience. That’s why she once had hated the viola.

    Now she was alone with her music, and no one was there to watch or judge her. How simple, how easy it was, for her to shut the world away with a curtain of sound. Her teacher was wrong, everybody else was wrong – music is the most self-indulgent pleasure in the world, partaken by those who closed themselves in their rooms with their instruments and improvised to their heart’s content.

    Alone in the small music practice room, she could have conquered death itself; for if she’d died, she wouldn’t have cared.

  • Rachy Hams

    Blue purple grape Italy Middle East Italy travel wine WINE! There. There’s the spark. I grope around for a pen, draw the wine, scrawl its name in letters- W I N E- and open my eyes. Breath. Don’t get sucked into it. Close again.
    Black black black brown red orange rainbow right left Spanish Olive Disney crap behind third fourth THIRD! Another spark! I draw the thought of third, open my eyes, and try to piece them together. Of course, it never works after only two pieces. Open. Breathe. My head hurts, but I can’t stop until I have some connection.
    I glance over to Poppa. Still sleeping. Still beeping, that machine of death. He’s still comatose.
    Close eyes again. Breath deep deep deep, try to focus. The feeling of… Well, not feeling, if that would be a feeling, it slips away, leaking like water through my fingers. “No, no, no!” I gasp, trying not to feel emotion. But the very thought of ‘Don’t feel’ drags the rest of the serenity away from me.
    I groan and rub my eyes with my hands. Finding Poppa feels so, so impossible.
    When the pounding in my head stops, I look over at Aunt Maddie, his big sister, holding his small, bird like hand. She smiles at me. “Anything?” she asks hopefully.
    “Nothing that makes sense,” I say, disappointed in the world, but disappointed in myself most of all. “‘Wine’ and ‘third.'”
    “Wine and third, huh?” she contemplates, squatting in front of me to look at the pictures I’ve drawn. She doesn’t say much about wine, but when she sees the picture I’ve drawn for third, her eyes pop open. “What- what is this, Franks?” she whispers.
    We look down curiously at it. I’ve drawn a trapezoid with several circles, the third from the left marked with a star- the symbol I call a spark, the symbol that means, You’ve found a clue.
    “You know what,” she says, almost with alarm. “This looks like a cellar.”
    And then it clicks. Sort of. “We have one of those! Then… He’s in the cellar, right?” I ask, trying not to sound like the excited, immature little girl Aunt Maddie thinks I am.
    Aunt Maddie licks her lips. “Maybe,” she says. “Only one way to find out.”

    I fall asleep that night, absorbing jasmine and mint incense, grounded by Quartz pebbles, and hoping that we were right.
    I sit up after the clock chimes ten. “Aunt Maddie, not tonight,” I sigh, frustrated. “We’ll have to do it tomorrow.” But she sits, still holding Poppa’s hand and holding the incense stick over my head.
    “Pragmatikós,” I whisper, and the room’s image shivers. I sigh, content. I am dreaming, after all. I get up, looking at the living room. I step out of my body and blow on the smoke from the incense- just so Aunt Maddie doesn’t think that I’m dead or something. She’s so paranoid sometimes. I smile, remembering the first time I dream walked. She thought I had to be tested, sent to a facility, and made infertile, all so that I could be contained.
    That was before Poppa was sick. Now that finding him in a dream is my only hope of waking him up, she embraces my… let’s call it a talent. She embraces my talent as her only hope of waking her little brother up again. My smile turns serious. I need to keep focused, or the dream will change.
    I’m in the living room, like I am in my physical body, but the colors are slightly off. Now begins the countdown. I have two minutes to find Poppa, and then the Forces will take me back to my body, back to my own realm, back to reality. Two minutes, and not half a second to lose.
    I pull back the Persian rug I’m grounded on. The stones clatter everywhere, but my real body is intact. I work open the old, rusty door- darn thing, it’s so misshapen that it’s almost impossible to open- and climb downstairs.
    “Kerí,” I say, and a candle appears in my hand.
    I walk, counting the doors I go through. I’m running out of time, so I start to run. This, of course, puts my candle’s flame out, but I have about half a minute left. No time to worry. I run right into a doorframe, yell ‘Kerí’ again, and see that, in the few seconds I have left, this is indeed the room I need.
    I run in, scream, “Spathí!” and stab the third barrel from the door’s left with a sword.
    But I don’t have enough time to bleed it dry, because next thing I know, I hear the eerie, white voices whispering, “Wake up, daughter, wake up.”
    And I do.
    I cry, too.
    Aunt Maddie won’t even speak to me anymore because “if I hadn’t dawdled I would have found him,” apparently. And I yell back at her, “I am twelve years old, I am a little girl, I can’t do the impossible” which got me a “stop using that word, impossible, how would you know what impossible is” and a smack on the head.
    Part 2 on the way 🙂

  • Syrup

    (OK, I don’t really think this is any good. I’m not really too good with freewriting, and this is really just me ranting. I tried anyways.)

    Death scares me. I’m sure that’s not much of a shocker, death scares a lot of people. I think about it a lot though, I always wonder what happens after death. I mean, we don’t know what happens after death, and we probably never will. It seems impossible. We don’t know if there’s a Heaven or Hell, or if our mind just ceases to exist anymore.. Or maybe we get sent to just a black void of nothingness. That last one is unlikely, but you never know.

    It scares me even more because I have yet to really do anything with my life. I’m only Eighteen right now, but I don’t have a job, and haven’t made any attempts to find one. I really just browse the web, do school, and play video games. That’s about the extent of what I do, maybe I’ll watch some TV or movies. You know, my dream job is to become a voice actor, but that’ll probably never happen because I don’t do anything to make it happen. It’s something I really want to get into, before my death.

    It doesn’t help that I procrastinate a lot, and I just waste a lot of time. I’m kind of unhappy with my life as well. I don’t really take really good care of myself. My teeth are messed up, I’m obese, and I don’t really have any friends, except for the ones I have online. I’m behind on my school work. I’m generally miserable.

    But 2016 is going to be a year of change! I have already started exercising, but I want to change all of what I just mentioned. I want to be happier, I want to brush my teeth more often, and go to the dentist. I want to lose weight, and look much better. Internet friends are great and all, and I love them, but I do want friends who live in the same state as me. I want to work harder with school. Most of my grades are just barely passing, and I know I can do better. Lastly, I want to try and do some voice acting for projects. Probably nothing professional just yet, but amateur projects, and fan projects. It’s something that I really enjoy, and want to make into a career.

    A lot of people don’t really follow their New Year’s Resolutions, but the things I mentioned are things I want to fix before I die. They are my New Year’s Resolutions. 2016 will be the year that everything changes for me.