I don’t know where the original “two golden hours” concept came from, but I first came across it in regard to writing here.
Dr Jane Genovese had been impressed by a seminar called “Turbocharging your writing” run by Hugh Kearns from ithinkwell.com
Hugh then talked about the idea of nailing your feet to the floor to force yourself to write for “Two Golden hours”. He then warned us that during the first 45 minutes of this process, most people experience some level of anxiety and discomfort. It’s common to have thoughts such as “I can’t write this”, “I rather be doing something else” or “This is really hard…”. This is completely normal but often what happens is people think that something is wrong when they experience this anxiety. They think that because they’re finding it hard to write, perhaps they should stop and often that’s exactly what they do. Big mistake. “If you just hang in there, the anxiety will eventually disappear” said Hugh Kearns.
SLOGGING THROUGH THE MUD
At the time I read this, I was faithfully showing up at my desk at 6am each morning, with two hours at my disposal and the manuscript of Skalsinger open on my laptop, but it was like slogging through mud. My word count for the past week had averaged out at:
155 words per hour! 😧
Something needed to change, and drastically, or the final 10% of this first draft would take months to finish.
Enter Two Golden Hours and another writing Mini Experiment.
Hugh Kearn’s rules were simple:
- Write early in the day
- Use a dedicated place
- Close the door
- NO internet at all! Pull out the cable if you have to.
- Nail your feet to the floor and stay there, no matter how mentally uncomfortable you get
- Ignore your inner critic and just get the words down
Simple, but not necessarily easy.
I did modify this experiment by including short breaks. I saw a Twitter post to this effect by Kelly Gardiner and asked her how she broke the time up. She does 25-minute writing sprints followed by 5-minute breaks to stretch, go to the bathroom, walk around, etc. But no internet! This made sense to me. So I had my plan. How did it go?
Task: plotting/planning/making notes/ brainstorming
Notes: I found a plot hole and worked out what needs to happen next
Words added to manuscript: 0
1st break: drank water, stretched
Task: Begin the new scene, which will be mostly dialogue
Notes: after a slow start, the words began flowing quite well, and I was surprised when the timer went off.
Words added to manuscript: 314
2nd break: bathroom break, then sat quietly. Realisation surfaced that the scene needs more conflict; I need to add a third character.
Task: rewrite the scene, adding the third character
Notes: I felt it was working well.
Words added to manuscript: 212
3rd break: walked around the garden. Lots of ideas buzzing around my head, including how to end the scene.
Task: complete the scene
Notes: the words felt like they were coming more slowly, but I pushed and completed the scene almost right on the timer.
Words added to manuscript: 289
As I spent the first 25 minutes just planning, I added 815 words to my draft in 75 minutes, equivalent to
652 words per hour!😊
This is a massive improvement on the past week, and suggests this method really works for me.
- I’d like to plan ahead next time so I can try actually writing for the whole four sessions and see what that does to my word count.
- I also think it could be valuable to do some single Golden Hours, just two 25-minute sessions with a break in the middle.
- The breaks were useful and I would definitely keep them in. They were short enough that I stayed in writing mode, but they gave me enough distance from the task for new ideas to arise.
- I’m sure that what made the biggest difference was excluding all activity on the internet during this time. Not exactly a surprise, but now I’ve proved what an effect it has on me personally, I know what to do. Can I do it, though? We’ll see…
Have you tried this or any other methods to maximise the productivity of your writing time? I’d love to hear about your experiences.