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This is (Still) Not a New Year's Resolution

Here is my answers to question 12 from Friday’s post. I answered questions one through four in yesterday’s post. More later.

12. How much time each day do you vow to devote to your writing?

It’s so easy to respond to this kind of question with complete bullshit. To say, “I vow that I will write every single day. I will devote at least three hours a day to my writing.” And to think, Well, except when I’m too busy. Or don’t feel like it. Or, you know, have laundry to do.

It’s also easy to respond to this kind of question with knee-jerk feelings of guilt. To bemoan the fact that you don’t spend enough time writing and berate yourself for being such a lazy, lazy person. Without once ever asking yourself how much time you actually do spend on writing each day.

So yesterday I spent some time thinking about and writing about how much time I spend writing. And I’m glad I did, because the results surprised me. It turns out I spend a lot more time writing than I give myself credit for. Even as I write that sentence I’m thinking, That can’t be right! I’m a very lazy person! But guess what? The little voice inside my head is wrong.

It really breaks down to three different kind of days: days when I’m working on an assignment; days when I’m working on deadline; and days when I have no paid work to do.

On days when I am working on an assignment I usually go to the computer by 7 or 8 a.m. and work until about 2 or 3 p.m. On days when I’m working on deadline I often add another two-hour session in the late afternoon or early evening. So that’s eight to ten hours of writing time. Yes, I take breaks. Lots of them, actually. But I’m still spending the brunt of my waking hours at the keyboard. I also write blog entries and read almost every day. To my mind, both blogging and reading count as writing-related activities.

So that leaves the days when I have no paid work to do. Again, it would be easy to say that I waste these days, that I don’t do as much writing as I could or should. But once I really thought about it, I realized that I still go to the computer at 8 a.m. and usually stay there until at least 11 a.m. I answer emails, update my blog, browse the Internet and read other people’s blogs. And sometimes I work on my creative writing. I do that six days a week. (On Tuesday mornings I go to the chiropractor and do laundry at my mom’s house.) Of course there are days when I sleep late or watch the Today Show. But there are also days when I’m feeling very creative and on those days I do more than three hours of writing. I guess it kind of balances out. I could do more. But I don’t do as little as the voice inside my head says I do.

Ok, back to the question at hand. And my goal is to make my answer bullshit-free, uninfluenced by false assumptions and guilt, and also realistic and attainable.

12. How much time each day do you vow to devote to your writing?

I vow to devote at least three hours each morning, six days a week, to my writing. That includes paid assignments, creative writing, and blog entries.

But wait! Didn’t I just say I already do that? Well, yes and no. I’m thinking about quality writing time here. No excuses and no distractions. That means no answering emails, no answering the phone, no loading the dishwasher or watching the Today show. Showers, dog-walking, and Internet browsing can all wait three hours. Short breaks still allowed. Stretch, get more coffee, go to the bathroom. But that’s it. Three hours, ass in the chair, hands on the keyboard.

It’s funny—I came up with the same three-hour-a-day answer that I had in my mind from the beginning. But taking the time to really think about the question gives the answer more weight, makes it more concrete. It’s not just a quick, meaningless answer that can soon be forgotten. It’s a realistic, attainable goal that will easily fit into my life and my schedule.

But, just so you know, it's still not a New Year's resolution.


* Correction: In Friday's Post, I credited the wrong person with writing the About.com article "Write Your Own Reality," in which the 15 questions originally appeared. The author of that piece is Devon Ellington. Ellington's blog on the writing life is Ink in My Coffee. I'm sorry for any confusion this might have caused.

1 comment:

Devon Ellington said...

Very nice blog and beautiful photographs!

You're absolutely right -- it's not the amount of hours spent at the keyboard,but the quality of the time.

And yes, absolutely skip any questions that aren't relevant! The list was created to generate discussion in a writers' group with people at all stage of their careers, so some of the questions are more geared towards starting rather than taking the next leap.

As someone specializing in non-fiction, you can get a good laugh as I struggle to hone my skills in that arena! :)

You live north of Boston? Lucky you! I was born in Norwood and had family in Foxboro for years. I hope to move back to Mass. in the next year or so -- maybe around Plymouth.