Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Making Time to Write

I can't speak from my own experience, since I have always been a slow writer with low output. Once in a while, a writing project takes fire for me, and I write quickly. Most of the time, I take a lot of breaks from writing.

My best estimate is -- I've averaged a little over a hundred pages of publishable text a year over the past 35 years. This adds up to five published novels and 30+ published short stories. But it's a pretty modest output compared to many writers, including many of the other Wyrdsmiths.

However, I have read and heard a lot about how to make production as a writer. Most writers who produce a lot seem to set quotas and then meet the quotas. Some writers decide they will write x number of words a day. Others plan to sit down at the computer for a period of time -- say, four hours a day -- and stay at the computer until the time is up, doing nothing except writing or trying to write. If nothing comes, they stare at the blank screen for four hours.

You are not going for quality in this situation. The point is to get words on the page. If the words seem awful on a given day, grit your teeth and keep going. You can fix them later.

I took a class recently on "Writer's Resistance," which is sort of like writer's block, but not quite so scary. The woman teaching the class said it was key to make a commitment to write, however small, and then keep it. Commit to writing for 15 minutes or until you have half a page. She said it was important to make the initial commitment doable. Don't be too ambitious, because then you will fail. The idea is to create the habit of writing.

She also said it was always possible to keep writing after the first fifteen minutes or half a page. But make the commitment modest and then meet it. On bad days, you can quit after the commitment is met. On good days, you can keep going.

This is very similar to the system used by SF writers who are productive, though less demanding. It is probably a good place to start.

If you have a lot of distractions in your life, then the problem becomes -- can you find at least some free time and use it and maybe expand it. I am trying to get back to writing in a notebook, because then I can write on the bus or while taking a break at work. Patricia Wrede and Pamela Dean used to meet for lunch when they both had jobs and sit together and write. It was harder to goof off when each had a writing partner; and they were both scheduling a block of time each work day that was devoted to writing.

1 comment:

MariAdkins said...

I do a lot of writing on the bus. Since it takes about an hour to get anywhere here in town, this comes in handy.

I also write while I'm doing laundry. We live in an apartment with a nice laundry room at the end of the building - soda and snack machines, two long rows of washers and dryers, just like a laundry-mat. Every Saturday morning, I pack up a notebook and a pen, the headphones for my cell, along with the Downy and Purex (and the clothes) and head down. Something about the monotonous rhythm of the washers and dryers puts my mind into that right space, and off I go. I've gotten as many as 4k words in two hours like that when I've really found a good groove. ;)

I write at other times too - I set aside from about 1pm until about 5pm daily or more depending on what I'm doing or what's going on.