Find Motivation in Writing Sprints!

Some people were taught to swim when someone threw them into a pool. With writing, sometimes you just have to jump in and do it. But the good news about writing sprints are, there is absolutely zero risk of death.

When you can’t think of what to write, sometimes it feels like you’ll spend all day staring at your computer screen. Or going on Twitter for “inspiration” (I’m guilty). So you just have to force yourself to do it, to write without stopping, no matter what it is you’re saying.

Set a Timer

When I teach creative writing to elementary and middle-schoolers, I give them 3-5 minutes for each sprint. When I do my own, I usually set the timer for 10 minutes. It’s really up to you how long you’d like to go for. But keep in mind, you’re not allowed to stop writing once you start!

I like to tell my students, “Even if you’re just writing, ‘I don’t know what to write!’ or ‘I hate writing sprints!’, keep writing! More ideas will come!” And that’s the truth. Write WHATEVER comes into your head.

You can use a prompt if you like. But never feel too chained to the prompt. There are some great prompts to be found online, or you can make a list of your own and pick randomly. A few years ago, I once asked one of my friends for a location as a prompt, and she said “inside a dumpster,” and from there I created one of my favorite short stories I’ve ever written.

At the same time, don’t stick TOO much to the prompt. If the prompt says, “Write about your dream pet,” but you already have the perfect dog (like Chewie is for me; he’s already perfect), then write about the dog you already have! That leads into my second point:

Don’t Stress

It doesn’t matter if what you write during a sprint is good. There is a 96% chance it won’t be. (Full disclosure: I just made up that percentage.) But there’s an even HIGHER chance (I also made that up) that there will be something good somewhere in there. And then you can use those good ideas in something you write later. Or maybe you’ll come up with a completely different idea. The whole point is to get your brain working, and to practice converting your thoughts into coherent words and sentences.

Nobody ever has to see what you write. No matter how often I write, I still get worried that what I write won’t be any good, and I’ll get a bad grade or something. I haven’t been in school for years. But that whole “graded” mentality never seems to leave us. We’re worried that everything we write has to be correct. The good news is, it doesn’t! You can spell everything wrong if you want. You can forget to punctuate every other sentence. Who cares? No one’s going to see it but  you. And that leads to my third point:

Designate a Journal & Write by Hand

Do your writing sprints in one designated journal or book; a PRIVATE journal that’s just for you! Don’t write them next to your biology notes or the notes you took during the big marketing meeting. Don’t write them on anything you need to turn in, or in a place where you’ll feel stressed about writing. Write them in a journal that’s only yours to see. Then put it away! That way, it doesn’t matter if what you write sucks. There is a 95.13423523% chance it will completely suck.

I also suggest writing by hand. Something about typing feels so FORMAL. Write it by hand. Let your handwriting be messy. My handwriting is usually pretty good, but when I do writing sprints, I let it become borderline illegible. When you’re writing fast, there’s no time to worry about how your handwriting looks. (As long as you can sort-of read it.)

Anyway, those are my tips for doing writing sprints! I usually work best doing writing sprints in the morning, so I try to wake up two hours or so before I need to leave for work to have some time to get both my writing and drawing sprints in.

Was any of this advice helpful to you? Tell me in the comments!

Happy writing!



  1. I love this idea and am giving it a go! Although I must confess, on my first attempt, I got winded. The good news is - I've begun!!

    1. Hooray! I'm so glad you're trying it! It's definitely difficult at first. You can start with smaller amounts of time to start. I have my 6th graders do 3 minutes, since they get easily distracted. I know some people do 30+ minutes, but I don't even have the attention span for that, haha! :)

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