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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Finding Time, Where Time Is Hid

A friend who is "working hard to carve out regular writing time" wrote me to see what advice I had to offer.

By the standards of, you know, those REAL writers, I'm not actually that productive: plenty of people put out a novel a year, whereas if you add up all the words I've published over the last 6 years, it comes to about a short novel.

However, even getting that far required learning a lot, so I gave her my few ideas, and, at the risk of being didactic (and of repeating myself), I thought I'd share them with you, too, Gentle Reader.

  • Routine rocks. Writing is hard, so habit is one of your few allies. Knowing you'll always be, say, in the cafe at 8 am with a pen and paper means you can relax into it.

  • Get away from things that remind you of what else you have to do -- sinks full of dirty dishes, inboxes, books you should have read by now.

  • Manage the right level of stimulation/distraction for you. I do best in cafes, occasionally with music in headphones. Everyone is different.

  • You getting writing time is probably a joint project with various other people/entities in your life. It may be useful to negotiate it -- and to be willing to offer quid pro quo. My wife and I have a lot of systems to measure the time we each get alone, with kids, etc, to make sure things are in balance.

  • Writing is composed of many different activities with different prerequisites & requirements. You can always write down ideas, even while talking to someone else or on the bus. You can often revise, at least on the line level, at least by scribbling on a printout, at times and places where you wouldn't have the energy or focus to first draft.

  • Writing dates with others -- others who will actually shut up and write along side of you.

  • Much of what seems like managing time really turns out to be managing inspiration. If you are on fire with a project you make time. Routine, promising yourself cookies, quietly productive writing partners, and other such means of cajoling and coercing yourself, are useful allies for those inevitable times when you are NOT on fire. Figuring out how to get back on fire faster also helps.

  • Make sure you are in conversation with others about writing, but don't let that conversation dominate the actual writing.

  • Submit, and track submissions. Arrange your thinking so that the goal is to submit LOTS and get LOTS of rejections. Rejections are good; they are physical evidence that you are in action and are learning. Don't worry about acceptances: those are strokes of lightning, gifts from the goddess. Focus on accumulating rejections -- that's under your control, and it really is the path.

Posted by benrosen at November 2, 2005 10:18 AM | Up to blog

wow, that is EXACTLY how i write. i thought we were all supposed to be different.

Posted by: claire at November 2, 2005 06:36 PM

very good advice. good stuff to keep in mind, so, thanks!

Posted by: elad at November 2, 2005 08:35 PM
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