The Art of Being Prolific #5: Tangent Typing

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Tangent Typing! Tangent typing is sitting down and typing for a specified amount of time, generally one minute. Tangent typing is also Tip #5 in The Art of Being Prolific.

I’ll start with the simple. Sit down. Set a timer to one minute. Start timer. Randomly type REAL words for that minute as fast as you can. Those words don’t need to make sense, but it helps if they do. When you finish, count the words.

That’s all it takes, but the benefits are quick and great. In fact, every morning for the past two years I’ve done this exercise three to five times before any other work or writing. This tip will not directly produce your prolific content, but it will empower you and give you tools to do so.

Take a look at one of the exercises from this morning’s session:

I have always been a big fan of lost treasure. My first experience is when my dad told me about the lost Dutchman mine. I was so happy and excited to search for it on my own. I have always wanted to have a treasure of my own. It could be lost, gold silver, jewels, something like the Goonies. I love pirate tales and pirate lore. I am a writer and love what I do. I am not even bothered by the four cats in our house who love jumping on the laptop while I 

This is 95 words typed in one minute. It was my third exercise this morning, so the word count was a little higher (we’ll talk about that below).

Keep this sample exercise as a reference as you go through the benefits below. Note that the blurb is not exciting or creative. It is just what came out of my head as my fingers did the leg work.

This exercise is merely a means to becoming prolific, but it has other advantages as well.

Here are a few I could think of:


One thing I noticed when I started this process is that tangent typing would open my mind. I use this process each morning before I begin writing, and I also use it if I am not feeling creative. It could be that the short blurbs of writing are inconsequential to my career, or they force me to, for a short period of time, come up with a series of coherent words – A fight or flight type of response. Whatever the psychology behind it, two to three one-minute sessions does the trick.

Faster, more proficient typing skills

While I don’t focus on “good” typing during this exercise (grammar, spelling, etc.) I have noticed that my speed typing exercise, has, over the years, improved my typing proficiency. In being prolific, this is important simply because you don’t need to go back and fix mistakes. Also, you will naturally type faster the more you perform this exercise. For me, I’ve improved to about 85-90 words per minute (wpm) while free typing. With a more concentrated effort on my content, I type around 75-80 wpm. This is a significant improvement from only a couple years ago when I was in the 60s and sometimes less.

The art of going with the flow

This short exercise is an excellent tool to teach your mind and fingers to flow together. I use the word tangent for a reason. When you start tangent typing, you never know where your little blurbs will take you. Each blurb is like a little story, none of which ends the way you might think. I start with a general theme and just go from there. So, I may start with “Treasure” and by the end of the blurb, I am writing about kittens. I think this is what helps with the creativity and pushing aside writer’s block.

This exercise teaches me to go with the flow, where ever that flow may go (Ech. I’ve been reading Dr. Seuss at night).

Teaches you that you don’t need to feel “inspired” to write

Almost a decade ago I had an interesting neighbor in his early 20s. He’d always see me on our shared porch as he came and went from his apartment. One day he came up to me and said, “You know I’m a writer too.” I thought that was great. Through our conversation, he told me two things I’ll never forget. The first, I covered in my blog post, “I don’t pimp out my work,” a curious look at a curious writer.” It was his justification to say he is not published. And so you know, being published is a perk for a writer, not a requirement. The last thing he said was that he “Only writes when inspired.”

Good God! If I only wrote when I was inspired I could forget being prolific, I’d struggle to get anything out at all.

This exercise is a great way to train my mind into realizing that I don’t need to be inspired to write, or to write well. Tangent typing is an inspiration of sorts, but it teaches me that regardless how uninspired, tired, drained, hungry, or disgusted at how dirty my workspaceis, I can always come up with something to write.

Helps to remove the obstacle called “Writer’s Block.”

I’ve touched on this a little already, but it’s worth mentioning again in its own right. Tangent typing removes writer’s block. Writer or not, I’m sure you’ve heard of the devil called writer’s block. This is when your mind can’t seem to connect with your fingers, and you are blank at what to write. It happens from time to time. Although, if you write enough, writer’s block rarely occurs because you can jump from one project to another, which frees your mind to continue.

That may be why I have not had writer’s block in so many years. However, it was when I began this exercise that I saw my mind freeing itself. I believe tangent typing takes me away for just long enough to open my mind. I liken it to meditation.

Gets you moving

Lastly, much like exercise, I am a firm believer that you must warm up your mind before engaging deeply in writing. This small exercise is a way to wake, limber-up, and get the blood flowing before I begin my morning writing jog.

In the end, when I complete the writing exercises I feel more awake and ready to tackle the day.

We all have our little routines to get us ready to tackle our hurdles, take for example Australian Michelle Janneke who went viral a few years ago, and then again for the Rio Olympics. Personal routines are important – whether routines are common, flashy, sexy, or crazy, we all need them. So, what writing exercise do you practice or suggest to get yourself in the right mindset? Please share in the comments to help our quickly growing list of writers, readers, and others

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