I'm currently a student and I write non-fiction every day. I've committed myself to writing 1000 words every day, and I am successfully doing this.

However, I'm trying to improve a particular aspect of my writing process: almost every day that I write, I write in "bursts" of about 1 to 10 minutes of highly productive writing, during which I'm almost writing non-stop. Then there are these "dips" of about 15 or more minutes, during which I am literally writing not a single word.

I know that it is unreasonable to expect to write in perfect uniformity exactly the same amount of words per minute. I absolutely don't have a "purity" goal like that.

Nevertheless, I feel that I could really be much more productive, qualitatively and quantitatively, if I could at least develop good habits to diminish these dips (as much as possibly anyway). Those dips also are sometimes a bit stressful, since I'm generally kind of "stuck in my head" at those times, rather than relaxed and in the flow. But that is only a secondary problem, since I'm mainly concerned with improving my productivity and quality of writing.

Generally what happens during these dips is that I don't know exactly what to write (though I always have a vague idea), and then kind of get "stuck in my head" about what to write. Often this results in me just "zoning out" without focusing on my writing.

What kind of practical techniques or practical advice has helped you to improve your writing process in this regard?

Edit: I am already using the pomodoro technique, where I write 50 minutes, and then meditate 10 minutes, then write 50 minutes again.

  • Do you plan what you write before you start? Apr 22, 2017 at 13:40

5 Answers 5


What you are experiencing is the natural rhythm of human productivity. There are even techniques designed to help you optimize the use of this rhythm. One is called the Pomodoro technique in which you use a kitchen timer to time your work sessions and breaks.

I think the mechanical nature of the Pomodoro technique is probably unnecessary for most people, who takes such breaks naturally enough anyway. But I can see that it can do a lot of good for people with a false work ethic who won't allow themselves to slack off for hours at a time, despite the lack of breaks having a serious detrimental effect on their actual productivity.

In your case (as in mine) your brain is dividing your work time into Pomodoros naturally. You (and I) can benefit from the Pomodoro theory simply by using it to assuage our consciences and reassure ourselves that the rhythm that our brains are imposing on our work is, in fact, a productive one.

BTW: During my dips, I visit this site.


"Zoning out" is normal, good even, as it shows creativity and imagination. The important thing is finding a balance.

When people's minds wander off and they stop focusing on the task at hand, it's usually because of brain linkages. For example, you're writing a scene where someone forgets something, which reminds you of the time when you forgot to close your apartment window, which gets you thinking about replacing them and then you're off. Identifying these linkages helps. Trace back to the original thought to regain focus and reduce mind wandering.

Consciously try to increase that ten-minute time frame for productive working.


Think about the writing when you’re not at the keyboard; e.g while walking the dog, especially if this immediately preceeds the writing time. Have an idea or three queued up before you start.


Well, I've got my own method. It's called Planned Procrastination writing. You may or may not like it.

So, I've got A Project to write about. And I also have three writing projects that have nothing to do with Project A. So, if I get stuck and nothing's happening with Project A, I go to Project B, for however long it captures my interest, or alternatively, I give myself 5 minutes to do whatever I can.

The 5 minute timer is fun because it creates an artificial deadline! It's like GO! This the time you have!

And if things are going well for B, I reevaluate and keep writing. If I run out of steam there, I look back at Project A. If I've still got nothing, I go ahead and jump to writing Projects C and D, real quick.

I find that breaks help with creativity, as well as having another task, whatever that task might be, to fill your mind. Other writing projects, or specific things, can fill that time. Even writing exercises or spending 5 minutes on a board like this answering questions. That counts as writing, if that's your goal, you've just got to set an alarm every time you go off task, so you don't wander too far and away from the goal.

But if I can get more than one project going at a time, it's ideal for me, especially if they all have different deadlines. Deadlines are good.


This is more commonly known as 'writer's block', and the solution is simple: Write about something else, on a separate piece of paper (or separate file if you're typing). Write about whatever comes into your mind, until you get your creative juices flowing again.

  • I don't know that 15 minutes constitutes writer's block. It just means something's cooking. You know, coming to simmer. Ideas are like that sometimes, they need time to marinate before they come out. Apr 24, 2017 at 2:11
  • Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But I'm sure the solution is the same either way.
    – James
    Apr 24, 2017 at 3:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.