What time spent writing is writing time?
Back when I said “I want to be a writer,” I used to try to come up with ways to motivate myself to write more regularly than just every time I felt like it. I knew that to be a writer, I had to sit down whether I wanted to or not. I would make up goals that seemed lofty, unattainable: one hour a day, and I would not make it past the first day.
(photo credit bigother.com)
Then I graduated from university. I decided to set a page goal for myself to start the first draft of my novel, a story that had been coming along in “every time I felt like it” stops and starts. I set a goal of five pages of single-spaced writing per weekday. This worked out to about 15,000 words per week. I got the first draft of my first novel done in just under two months.
Since that time, I’ve tried to set other quotas for myself: 5 of this, 5 of that, 3 of this. I’ve also tried to set a goal each night for the next day, dependent on what my day looked like. Three hours a day became normal. Four hours is an excellent day. One hour is not a great try. Five hours has never happened.
When I read how long writers spend writing each day, I again feel like someone who is only thinking of one day becoming a writer. I remember listening to Esi Edugyan, author of Half Blood Blues, say casually in an interview on the CBC that she writes for eight hours a day, six days a week. Oh, sometimes twelve hours when I’m really into a novel. When you’re really into a novel? What else are you writing?
(photo credit amazon.ca)
Stephen King, in his book On Writing, says he writes every day of the week, at least 2,000 words a day. But on top of this, he spends all evening reading. He says he gets through 70 to 80 books a year, and considers this a fundamental part of his writing.
Now, I read a lot. Should I be putting this toward my hours? I write a blog. That takes time. Other things I read and write are in some way contributing to my novel, but how do I quantify them?
It seems that when I really think about it, and stop posing questions into the void, or at you, the idea of setting aside writing time is what is important here. If I’m going to read anyway, then I shouldn’t bother scheduling it in. But if I want to read more, to help improve my writing, then that can become a part of my writing time.
Writing time is the time spent writing in which I wouldn’t have otherwise been writing. It’s the time where I sit at the same spot and I take out the same things and I sit there whether I feel inspired or not and I leave only something ridiculous like six hours later. The point is I need more of this. This writing time must become my top priority.
Goodbye, day job.
Goodbye, night life.
Writing, you’ve been pencilled in!