Friday, November 9, 2012

Deciding When and How Much We Should Write

     Lately, I've been struggling to reconcile the different productivity goals people tell writers to make:
  • Write every day.
  • Set a daily word count.
  • Set a daily hour count.
  • Set a weekly word quota.
  • Set a weekly hour quota.
  • Write at least 1667 words in a day because that's a normal writer's load.
  • Writing a NaNoload (1667) is at least 2Xs too much! Everything you write will be crud.
     How are we supposed to reconcile all the quota advice out there for writers? How can we live and write--happily--knowing that so many others would scoff at our own particular routine as not "productive" enough, or "too narrow"?
     I'm coming to the conclusion that each of us must figure it out for ourselves. I can't subscribe to everyone else's ways of thinking, because I'm not everyone else. I'm me. I'm slow, and careful, and I hate rushing things. I'm also impatient, so sometimes I wonder if I'm doing the wrong thing by taking my time.
     And you are you, not me, and not them.
     Your life circumstances dictate how much writing time you have. During my 9-credits-in-8-weeks school stints, I have ZERO time for "fun" writing. I just don't have it! It is my responsibility to be  thorough in my learning. And I better be, because my family is paying big bucks to put me through it! Luckily, those stints are only 8 weeks long, and I do still write during them. I just don't have time to write for fun. Recently, I mapped out my hours each week. Literally: how many hours per class, for my job, with Kevin, with Mom, etc. For now, I have 4-5 hours on Sundays to spend on my novel, my blog, and any other fun writing projects I'm working on. I usually edit blog posts on Thursdays or Fridays. Maggie Stiefvater admitted that she wrote her first novel in stints: two hours every Wednesday. What kind of time do you have? Map it out if you're curious, or serious.
     Right now, I'm in a learning stage. My priority is to learn how others write, and to learn what works for me. My main priority is not output on my novel. I've learned the hard way that it's good for me to have somewhat of a plan. Blog posts help me learn, so I make them a weekly priority. After I finish my degree program, establish some routines that work for me, and have formed opinions on various writing craft controversies, I will make novel-writing more of a priority. By that point, I'll have a better idea of how it should go for me.
     Writing enhances life, not the other way around. For some writers, writing is life. It's their meaning, and it's what they live for. Not me. God is Who I live for. I have to make sure I'm spending time with Him first. Then comes my husband, Kevin. Then comes work. Work is third. And my writing isn't even "work" yet, because it's not my "job." So school actually comes next, then my part-time work, then everyone else in my life. Then, and only then, comes my "dear hobbies" category: writing, baking, and other fun stuff. Keep your priorities in check, people. When writing becomes your job, you can put it up there. But don't put it above religion (if you have one), or above family. Don't even put it above friends. You need those, you know? Sometimes you may have to tell your friends you can't make because you have a deadline...but make sure you spend time with them.
     What do you think? Should we try to meet other people's guidelines to the "ideal writing life"? Or should we all just figure out what works for us?

     There are lots of other writing topics which people disagree on. I read recently that we must come to a point where we decide which expert to agree with because, "You can't please all the fiction writing teachers all the time" (Gerke 35). Eventually, after looking at every side of the matter, we must make up our own minds about how to run our writing.

Resources on Time Management for Writers: a great, encouraging blog post by Maggie Stiefvater, another, older blog post by Maggie Stiefvater, and the other, oldest blog post by Maggie Stievater. Every wonder why I quote her a lot? Because she's a best-selling writer several times over, as well as an artist, a musician, a mom AND a wife!

Work Cited
Gerke, Jeff. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction. Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press, 2009.


  1. ... each of us must figure it out for ourselves.

    Precisely. And yes, I totally agree that each of us must select a single writing expert to agree with. That writing expert is ourself. (I am a little shocked that "ourself" doesn't get the red squigglys for a misspelling. It's a plural-singular. Maybe the Queen gets to use it.)

    Anyway, the idea of a "right" writing expert is a red herring. The only expert you will ever need is yourself. The trick, however, is trying enough things and writing/studying the craft enough to become expert. You'll know you've become expert when you finally trust yourself more than the "experts" and more than your critique partners. Keep working at it, and it will happen.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I value them!
      Writerly confidence is key.
      I still read everything from the experts who taught me so much...but I don't always completely agree with them now. I've heard other, conflicting perspectives that I agree with more.
      'Tis growth! Hurrah!