an hour a day
I made a to do list on a large sheet of paper, spatially organised by topic but with enough white space that it still looks calm. This semester I’m going to write consistently, although it’s easy to look at the list of things to do (teaching, admin, ELINOR, our conference) and see that research will be the activity most easily postponed for more immediate deadlines.
My plan is simple: I’ll write an hour a day. That doesn’t sound like much, but I think that might be the beauty of it. I want to work less and get more done, and limiting time will not only make each bout of writing more intense, it will make me much more likely to actually get around to it. And if I’m totally dying to write more in the evening I guess I’ll let myself.
And no, blogging won’t count for the hour-of-writing. This hour will be for intensive, sustained writing, writing of essays. I’m updating my short paper on Links and Politics for Library Trends, I’m writing a paper on distributed narrative for AoIR and another on games and teaching. D’you think an hour a day will suffice?
7 thoughts on “an hour a day”
jill/txt » fiction and blogging
[…] 217;m planning teaching. First lecture of the year is at noon. Afterwards I’ll do my one hour of writing. It would have been better to do it before teaching, but, it’s the first cla […]
Virtual Humanities Lab » Edward T. Hall
[…] n through weblogs, mailing lists and other happenstance, it’s difficult to carve out even an hour a day to, for example, write. Because writing something intelligent and original involve […]
One thing that has really worked for me is to give myself a word-count goal, in addition to a block of time.
250 words per 15 minutes is actually do-able if 1) you know in advance what you want to say and 2) if you save your editing for later.
But writing like this has changed my process entirely. Now I find I have to set aside time to revise as well — including time for reflection on the writing I’ve done. The reflection feeds into the writing… This reflection is especially important when I’m writing quickly.
I also need to set aside time to pre-write: to gather thoughts, take notes, determine my direction for day. I do more pre-writing with my academic work, the essays and articles and (eventually) revising my thesis into a book.
So I’m really interested to see how your hour-a-day plan works out. I find I’m always asking myself, Why is it so hard to set aside time for writing? Seems like it’s the most important thing to do, and yet I find it so easy to shunt it into evenings and early mornings and generally off-moments when I’m not doing something else. (It must be said that virtually anything else takes less concentration, peace and quiet.)
Personally, I find an hour is too short for “intensive, sustained writing”. If it is at all possible, I would rather recommend seven hours once a week or three hours twice a week. For me, it takes time to get into the rhythm of a long text, and the first hour or half-hour of any writing session is usually spent writing stuff that I decide to drop when I later edit or rewrite the text.
Although I have heard similar opinions from other writers, I don’t think this is universally true. Einar ?òkland once pointed out that writing, for him, is not “process-oriented”, but “product-oriented”. When giving writing courses, he would say: If you feel that you write better sitting on a green pillow, get yourself a green pillow to sit on. It’s more about what comes out of the writing process than about what goes into it (time, pillows, solitude, quiet, whatever). I second that.
I find an hour about as long as I *can* write in a sustained, powerful fashion at any given time. I’ve also found it useful to schedule 10-15 minutes immediately beforehand for nothingness. Concentrating and letting go of anything else that might be on my mind, and thinking about what it is I’ll be writing imminently, can be a useful tool.
Do write updates to this, Jill: I’m curious too. 🙂
I think that “nothingness” is actually the most important thing you could do, Vika! I wish there was better name for it… I find that I need the same thing — some kind of empty time to relax into writing. Hard to articulate what’s happening then, but that state of “quiet mind” is totally crucial.
An hour a day keeps the doctor away, I’d say.
I’d also say it is better not to write in the evening if that is not put in your schedule. It is better to keep a notebook and jot ideas in there as you think of them – but don’t write. If you write more than your scheduled time, you might just feel so on top of it that it matters less if you don’t write the next day. And, you will be so much more focused during the period you have set away, because you don’t have to feel guilty for not doing other things at that time and you can spend your evenings looking forward and be excited about that hour of your own. Diane gave great advice, by the way – writing is about so much more than the writing itself!