I've never really had a structure to my writing sessions. I've always simply sat down and put words on the page. I wrote until I didn't feel I could do anything more creative, and that was it for the day. Sometimes, like when I'm in the middle of writing a novel, that's not a bad thing. I would write until I got to a good place to stop, usually after a fairly significant amount of words. Other times, usually when I was in a spot that was proving difficult to write, where the words simply didn't want to come out, very few words would be written. I have to say, this process has worked marginally well--I've finished three novels and have over twenty short story publications to my credit, not to mention a good many Friday Flash stories right here on this blog. So why not keep doing what I'm doing? Easy! I've found a way that works better for me, and I hope will result in even more productivity.
I've learned this month that if I work for a half-hour, take a ten minute break, and then work for another half-hour, I get a lot accomplished, even if I start out not feeling very creative. The fact that I know I'm going to be planted in my writing chair for the next half-hour gets my mind moving. I give myself permission to simply stare at the clock for the full thirty minutes, but how boring is that? My mind, conscious and sub-conscious, would much rather spend that time writing than mindlessly count down the minutes, so I inevitably find my pen dancing across the page. And since I know I'll get a ten-minute break shortly, the time doesn't seem like an unendurable chunk.
Why a ten-minute break? It's a good, quick refresher. I get up to get a drink of water, I read an article or two in Writer's Digest or a few pages in a "how-to" writing book, I count the number of words I've written in the previous half-hour (what can I say, it relaxes me), or I work on a Sudoku or logic puzzle. Anything as long as it's not pertaining to what I've been working on. When the ten minutes are up, I find I can slip easily back into work mode for another half-hour blast.
The great part about this is it can be tailored to any amount of time. I've been doing it for an hour (or an hour and ten minutes if you count the break), but there's no problem adding on extra half-hour chunks with breaks in between if you're feeling more ambitious, or if less time is available some days, a single half-hour block with no break afterwards. The key is to keep the creative mind motivated. If my mind knows it only has to produce at half-hour clips, it's going to get the work down, and the world count is going to rise (hopefully with words that are working for that story--but that's always the worry, right?).
So what does this mean for you? Try it and see. Figure out how much time you want to spend on a writing session and break it down into chunks. Have an hour exactly to write? How about two twenty-five minute sessions with a ten minute break? Two hours exactly? How about two thirty-five minute sessions with a half-hour session added in (and two ten minute breaks sandwiched in, of course). Play with your schedule. See what works for you. Find out how the time limit mixed with short breaks does for your creativity and productivity. And, above all, have fun with it!