Nancy: Interval Training for Creativity

High-Intensity Workout

The early months of 2014 were not ideal fitness months for me. I wasn’t working out as regularly or intensively as I should have been. For the summer, I’ve made a commitment to get myself back into physical shape, which includes using interval training.

Interval training involves adding periods of higher  intensity at certain points throughout a workout. For example, runners might run at a measured pace for fifteen-minute intervals, run at top speed for two minutes, then return to their trotting pace for another fifteen minutes, etc. Weight lifters might alternate between heavier and lighter weights, and add extra repetitions for certain exercises to push their muscles to the limit for brief periods of time.

Since I am also working on toning up my flabby creative muscles this summer, this past week I experimented with applying interval training to my writing sessions. If you are a long-time 8LW reader, you might recall that we issued timed word-count challenges during NaNoWriMo last November. Several of us got high word counts during those challenges, but we had mixed results with the products of those labors. This time, increasing word count for timed intervals wasn’t the goal; it was a tool.

During a few of my afternoon writing sessions this past week, I scheduled an alarm to beep a the two-hour mark, at which point I reset the alarm for 15 minutes, turned off my inner editor, and wrote as quickly as I could. I had to stay on point and within whatever scene I was writing, so these bursts weren’t  ‘free writing’ exercises as the NaNo challenges sometimes were. But these mini-challenges kept the sessions interesting and by the end of the week, I found myself thinking faster as the two-hour mark approached and my mind prepared itself to work faster.

As I amp up my creativity training, I’m hoping to build up my endurance so I can write 5 days a week with ease, without feeling overwhelmed or tired or bored with my story. Apparently, I respond well to challenges, even if i issue them myself, so I’m going to add more high-intensity writing bursts over the next few weeks as I finish up draft two of My Girls. What are some of your favorite challenges, exercises, or approaches you use to amp up your creativity?


4 thoughts on “Nancy: Interval Training for Creativity

  1. Nancy, congratulations on both your physical and your writing regimen! Sounds like it’s really working for you—I’m totally envious. I’m in revisions now and can work fairly steadily for longer periods, but when I’m writing new words, I seem to have a naturally occurring break at 90 minutes when everything just sloooowwwwwsss to a stop and despite my best intentions, that’s just it. Maybe if I got out the weights, I could boost my physical strength and my writing stamina, as well. Must give it a try!

    • Weights, or a walk around the block, or some yoga stretches – anything that gets the blood pumping a little harder might get you past the slow-down. I rarely go past three hours of intense work without some kind of ‘walkabout’. And I take eye breaks when I remember to do it. I’m at the age where I don’t need readers quite yet, but if I don’t look focus on something far away a couple of times an hour, my eyes get tired and I eventually get a headache.

  2. LOL, my natural break time is 45 minutes, I think. But I could definitely see doing a 30/15/15 (30 minutes regular writing, 15 minutes sprint, 15 minutes break, lather rinse repeat). During the break, my subconscious would have a chance to review the speed-writing, and the next 30-minute stint could be about revising . . . . Good stuff here!

    BTW, I’m using an HIIT interval timer on my phone for decluttering with reading breaks. I really like the flexibility, and it’s free on Android.

    • Oooh, I’ll have to look for that app. I use a good old-fashioned wind-up kitchen timer, but if I’m working away from home, I usually forget to take it with me. The phone, on the other hand, is rarely out of arm’s reach.

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