Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Time Management

This will be part 2 of my Developing A Writing Habit course, so bear that in mind if you decide to go past the cut. In any case, here goes.

So yesterday, my assignment was to look back and inside to determine why I wanted to develop a habit of daily writing. I think I managed that pretty decently, at least by my own lights and that’s what counts in this case. Today though, the assignment is to take a somewhat more practical look and decide how long I want to write each day, as a sort of minimum target.

My choice is 25 minutes.

I suppose the big question there is why choose that time? Why not an hour? Why not 15 minutes? Heck, why not toss the time altogether and go with page count or number of words?
All of that is very valid, and who knows? Maybe in future I’ll shift to one of those strategies. I’d be the first to admit that the 25 minute mark is largely arbitrary, but I like to fool myse…I mean I like to think that there’s at least some basis for that. And since I’ve set myself the rather recursive task of writing for 25 minutes on why I want to write for 25 minutes, I might as well share a bit of that.

For one thing, long periods of time can be pretty forbidding when you’re just starting out. Having to set aside an hour or two might sound pretty straightforward in theory, but to a beginner trying to break away from distraction and build habits from the ground up, that seems like a hell of a high mountain to climb. Better to break it down into chunks, and then if you exceed those well, that’s a bonus you can feel really good about.

Another aspect is how well 25 minutes breaks down into a fraction of an hour. Yes, I can see you giving me the side-eye on this one, but it’s pretty easy to work out. After every 25 minute segment, you take a five-minute break. Now it makkes sense, since 2 x 25 plus 2 x 5 gives you a perfect hour. Not that I can really claim credit for that, of course. Reading ahead in the course, I saw that it took some ideas from the Pomorodo Method, which uses that time as a unit. But hey, if I can’t steal good ideas and apply them to my own work I won’t make much of a writer, will I?

Of course that doesn’t really answer why not shorter periods. And that’s where it just becomes a personal comfort thing and, again, utterly arbitrary. My method was to go back to yesterday’s attempt, My Why. And guess how long that took me to write, more or less? About a half hour, maybe just a bit under that. Given how I was pretty happy with the length of that, and how it pretty much satisfactorily got the point across, that seemed to be a pretty happy length of time to get one complete thought down on paper in enough detail that I was happy with it. At least as a first draft, although these early attempts won’t see themselves being rewritten.

As to page or word count as a daily target, I’m not going with that because honestly I’ve tried it before and I’ve found it pretty frustrating. It’s easy to have an off day and not make that count, which can be a bit dispiriting. Especially if you’re having a couple of off days. But more importantly, from my point of view at least it’s entirely too vague a target. How long does it take to do that many words? Depends on the day, my experience, how much I need to think about what I’m writing, whether it’s dialogue or description, and on and on. There’s no way to really pin that down to anything concrete, and thus no way to really slot that into a schedule. For instance, I haven’t even come up to the time I took yesterday, yet I’m certain I’ve written more words.

More importantly, time is extremely intuitive. We deal with time every day of our lives, it’s drummed into us since we were children. Abstract as it is in reality, the concept is so ingrained in our society that it might as well be as solid as this keyboard I’m banging away with right now. It’s damn near tangible, and as a result, very easy to conceptualize. Productivity goals aren’t so easy, at least for me, unless I’m working with them a lot. Which is one reason why I may eventually move to those, but they aren’t helpful at all in building the habit in the first place. Every day, in 25 minute blocks, that I can wrap my head around more than 1000 words or three pages or whatever it might happen to be.

And with that I find myself drifting into the last few minutes of my time, ironically almost exhausted in my writing on this subject. There’s only so much one can say about such a simple, largely arbitrary choice. But it’s worth it. Not just from the daily writing perspective, but from stretching myself to write about something I normally wouldn’t. Which in itself is a win.

And in case you’re wondering, 906 words. Pretty good my second day.

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