On Sprinting

This morning I read an article by Seth Godin that I liked: "Sprint!"

The best way to overcome your fear of creativity, brainstorming, intelligent risk taking or navigating a tricky situation might be to sprint.

This is a technique that I use for writing. Every day (usually), I sit down for 15 minutes and write. I expect the full composition to be a book, Above Cedar Creek, a memoir from working at Boy Scout camp in Illinois. It's still a long ways off, but I'm getting there.

I use a 15-minute writing sprint for two reasons.

First, I have a day job, and I plan to keep my day job. I need a plan that keeps me motivated and writing regularly, but fits in the space that I have.

Second, writing is often a terrifying experience. Sometimes it's easy and the locution of camp writes itself, as if it was released under pressure from within. Those are great days. Many of the days are not like that. Looking at the next 80,000 or 100,000 words from where I stand is daunting. But, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Performing a 15-minute sprint makes me look at what is directly in front of me -- 400 or 500 words in a defined time -- instead of getting discouraged by the remoteness of the end goal. Sprinting doesn't eliminate my fear, but it keeps me from focusing on it and thus getting stopped by it.

Granted, after 15 minutes of unedited sprinting, I don't have a very good episode. But I don't expect that. Editing comes later, and editing requires a different set of muscles; editing is a long grind. After 15 minutes I have a core of useful material. From this point, the effort is to free the underlying form from the stone:

The marble not yet carved can hold the form Of every thought the greatest artist has.

--Michelangelo Buonarroti, via The Columbia World of Quotations, 1996.