HIIT your writing and watch it improve!

The story line isn’t written on the wall. Unlike the Biblical account, no matter how hard I stare, no hand appears to write Dan out of the tar pit he’s gotten himself trapped in, again. Sheesh!

This is for those of you, if you’re like me, who struggle, at times, to get collect the right words from that pile of scrabble tiles tumbling inside your cranium.

You type, think, type, backspace, type, stare at the wall; time slips past and the hands of the clock have suddenly moved alarmingly close to quitting time. For me, that’s when the rest of the household gets up. It’s that dreadful wormhole again! Sucking time and productivity into an eternal vacuum. There’s no fix for it, no way to simply remove a filter and shake it out. It’s lost, forever.

Those who know me, are aware that physical fitness is a huge part of my life. I devote a great deal of time to developing the three key physical fitness elements: strength, cardio, and flexibility.

Recently, an idea came to me, as I waited for that magic hand to reveal the ‘golden nugget’.

I decided to incorporate a technique I’ve often used in my workouts, into my writing. Some of you may be familiar with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Simply put, the idea is to go hard for a brief period of time, and then continue exercising, but at a slower pace. This has proven, and I’ve benefited personally, to be a more effective and time efficient way of exercising than traditional forms. The ratio of time spent going hard to slowing down, are dependent upon fitness levels and goals.

I thought you were talking about writing, not running, Bierman. I am, well now I am.  I’ve discovered, for me, at least, that the same principles can be used in writing life.

No more staring at walls or scratching my head, trying to squeeze out the next sentence. These days, I write and read, in intervals. I’ll work on my WIP for fifteen minutes to half an hour, and then switch to reading blogs for about ten to fifteen minutes, before writing again.

I find reading the excellent work of others, and their different approaches to wordsmithing, very stimulating. It gives me a chance to ‘let someone else take the wheel.’  

No matter how much you love to write, and I do, creating something out of nothing can be mentally draining. This method allows for a break, while keeping your creative side working in the background.

I read blogs because they are short, and I can finish them within the allotted time frame. Blogs also give you the chance to read material from different authors, thus stimulating your brain to a greater extent.

You may have your own preference, such as Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media platform.  I would advise against reading a book, as it can get intertwined with your work, and it should be something you can finish within the timeframe.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If you have any techniques that you use, please share them here.

Happy writing!  


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Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman's childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non. Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this country boy to life in the big cities. After a short stint as a private investigator, he moved into the role of Correctional Officer, working at both Millhaven Institution and Kingston Penitentiary, until it closed.

44 thoughts on “HIIT your writing and watch it improve!”

  1. Great advice. I also like to read other blogs. Yes, they are usually short and sweet and so varied. I enjoy my writing, poetry, letters, but I’m also an artist, so I enjoy my painting and crafts. Oh no, then I love cooking and baking. I’ve learned so much, especially this past crazy Covid year.

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  2. I love your description of HIIT, Mark. I do that when writing. I always find “starting” my writing day the hardest. Intense focus and drive helps me into the zone where the words loosen up a bit and I don’t have to push as hard. Unlike you, I don’t take breaks or I’d have to start that process all over again. It’s a pain having to write in big chunks of time, but that works better for me.
    And the tar pit? You have me intrigued. Keep up the writing!

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  3. It’s a good plan, Mark, especially for visiting blogs, social media, and even editing. I tend not to stop when I’m actively working on a chapter or poem.

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  4. I can edit and make story notes in short bursts, but not draft. I need to keep writing until I’m “in the zone,” even if I later throw out three-quarters of what I’ve writen to get to the zone.

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  5. This is an excellent post, Mark, and I love the comparison to physical fitness workouts. Writing in sprints is such a great idea and bypasses mental fatigue and exhaustion. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. Good suggestions from you, Mark–HIIT–and just as valuable are the comments. What an array of different approaches! Me, I draft the story, read through, then edit a few lines at a time. I don’t know why it works but it does!

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  7. Writing is more challenging than reading… sometimes I wonder how could this writer write so well or why is this style so boring! So easy to critique!! 🙂 Writing a little everyday is indeed as good as exercising and less stressful. Thank you for the reminders Mark. I agree with your thoughts.

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  8. I usually write on the weekends, and when I do I avoid going online altogether. It’s weird, but it’s hard for me to get in sync with writing if I spend too much time online. Occasionally (like today), I’ll read blogs before I start writing. That’s because I got an early start today. Getting ready to hit the WIP soon. Great post, Mark!

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  9. I like this idea, Mark. I often struggle with getting the right words from the pile of scrabble tiles (love the analogy, BTW). Writing in intervals seems like a great idea. I’ll put this into practice the next time I’m struggling, which will probably be today. 😉

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  10. This is a brilliant idea, Mark, incorporating a workout technique into your writing. You have the blueprint, tried and tested, now you just superpose it over a different layout. Let us know if it works.

    Although I don’t have the same approach to workout as you do, I do train daily and I noticed that as soon as I created a routine that same approach followed me into my writing; blocking out daily hours to write – even if this means waking up before the household become alive 🙂

    Your advise is easy to individualize and follow, Mark. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Pat. Yes, it does work, for me, at least. It’s so true what you said, what works for the body often works for the mind. Thanks for stopping by, Pat, it’s always great to hear from you! 🙂

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    1. So true, Victoria. Stress and other factors do work against one’s ability to write. In general, however, I’ve found this technique to be quite helpful. Though, of course, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. I hope this week was beetter for you. 🙂

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