Assessing Time

Assessing Time
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Back when I was in high school writing short [very short] stories and poems in a spiral notebook while sitting on my bed Indian style, I wrote until I had nothing more to say or until I heard my mom yell for help in fixing the evening meal. I didn’t give one inkling of thought to how many minutes equaled a “good session of writing”.

Most of my poems were free verse with three parts to them. Sometimes I’d write at feverish speed as if I might forget the complete thought before I got it all down. There were instances when this only took five minutes at the most, and then I was done. I’d open the bedroom door and go spend time watching TV with my brother or go offer a hand in the kitchen.

Other times, I’d painfully struggle to get those poems out of me. I’d have to write the first stanza, stare out the window for I don’t know how long, and try for the next one. Those poems could take me days to write.

The short stories were done much the same way, though I always had some idea of where I was going with them. I knew where I wanted to start and end.

No place during those years did I worry about what constituted a “good writing session”. I just wrote. When did all of this change?

Life got busy and complicated until I was in my late forties. At that time, I decided to take a correspondence course through Writer’s Digest. The class was based on the assumption that I knew grammar up past the level of high school, which I did. It was designed to get the creative juices flowing and teach me how to submit my work.

Within all those pages and lessons, there wasn’t one indication, tip, or hint about how long a “good writing session” should be. I can only surmise that I should write until I was done for that day, that morning, that afternoon, or whatever.

It was in 2013 that I felt the urge to get serious about writing again and hopefully stick with it for more that three or four years. I subscribed to a hoard of blogs owned by writers in the hopes of learning the finer points of the craft/art.

Most of the blogs I followed talked about the writing process, writer’s block, and gave prompts and exercises. A little over a year ago though, I’ve seen a shift in a few of these blogs. I’m not sure I agree with the switch. I’ve come to know these bloggers and think of them as reliable for information, yet I’m reading something, not every time of course, about what establishes a “good writing session”.

Although good habits are bound to make life easier in many ways, when it comes to most activity requiring creativity, some of these habits can be too restrictive, making it almost, if not completely, impossible for a person to be imaginative or resourceful.

I tried taking the advice I was reading, but found myself getting stuck as if I was thrown into a bin of glue. I’d sit myself down at the time I had deemed to start my session and begin to write. Within twenty minutes at the most, I’d find my muse refusing to cooperate and flying off into space. The damn thing wouldn’t come back until the following day, and that was only if I was lucky.

Should writers have a strict schedule? Maybe some need it. Maybe some were raised with rigorous rules set down by their parents and have kept up the habit. However, I don’t see how this should apply to every writer. Many writers are the free spirit type. They may not start a project until three in the morning, work frantically for a half hour, and go to bed and sleep until noon. This does not mean they’re lazy. It means they have an unconventional life style.

I consider the above example a little extreme, but I’m certain some writers work that way. I was brought up with rigid rules: set meal times, set bedtimes, laundry day, meatloaf on Tuesdays, and so forth. I only make meat loaf about four times each year now so I think I’ve moved away from the do-or-die schedule.

Most days I want to write as soon as the house is quiet in the morning. I sleep regular hours when I can sleep so morning is when I have the most brain energy. However, while husband watches sports channels in the evening, I’m known to sit my butt in the chair to pound on the keys furiously for a couple of hours. Still, I don’t have a set number of minutes I gauge.

I write until I feel done.


How do you feel about writing sessions?

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” ― Red Haircrow


20 thoughts on “Assessing Time

  1. “Many writers are the free spirit type.” I think you summed it up very well here. Each of us are unique writers – one’s style may not work for us and we’re always changing, a work in progress. A routine might work for us for a while, and then we may get bored and unchallenged as you touched upon. Then again, some of us find comfort in structure. For me, it is a bit of both. I’d have days where I’d get in a routine, and then I’d take some time off and so some sporadic writing. Always mixing it up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m usually a creator of habit, but for approximately five months now I’ve been exceedingly random. The writing continues to trickle out of me though. If my pattern keeps on, I suspect that I’m have my nose to the grindstone in January.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sometime, I set aside time for a writing project but I find that I’m too tired to deal with it. Other times, I have no plans to write anything, but something wants to be written. I do have some established periods when I write, but they only account for about 50-60% of the time. I find those spontaneous sessions to be the most fun and rewarding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve found that I do my best writing before eleven in the morning or after seven at night. There are very few times when I can muster up the ambition to write in the afternoon. I don’t have a clue as to why this is though.

      As you can see, I’m still kind of stuck on schedules. :/

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I tend to advocate more rigor, not because I had a strict, scheduled sort of upbringing, but because I didn’t. I’ve wanted to be a fiction writer for longer than I care to admit, yet for many years, I was free-spirited, but also uneven and undisciplined, and a lot of time was lost waiting for the Muse to happen along and sprinkle her magic pixie dust on me, or letting Life’s “other” important business get in my way. I didn’t defend my writing time well, and, like you, Glynnis, I didn’t really put much thought into what a “good” writing session was. A few years ago, I decided that if I wasn’t going to take my writing more seriously, neither would anyone else, and so I started setting rigorous goals for myself: X number of words per day, stories of Y word-length, writing for Z amount of time every day. I experimented with writing at different times of day, then used those experiments to schedule particular times for writing that seemed to be most effective for me. I set publication schedules for myself. Through the application of that rigor and discipline, I’ve seen a noticeable improvement in my writing, a boost in my self-confidence as a writer, and I’ve self-published a few completed books. So for me, this approach was “successful” by the standards I set for myself. Does that mean this is the right process or method for everyone? No. There are surely more successful published writers in the world. I’m sure each one of them has their own method, and probably none of them are quite like mine, nor would all of theirs work quite so well for me (but I study them anyway, because who knows what new trick one might learn?). And there are many writers in the world who write just for the joy of it, with no need to think about publication someday, and any prescriptions about “right and wrong” would just suck the joy out of it for them. Ultimately, a “good writing day” is the one that leaves you feeling satisfied as a writer, by whatever measure or standard you decide is important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re not disciplined? Judging from the writing prompt emails and the ones announcing your posts, along with several books under your belt, I find that incredible. Discipline was drummed into me since birth. If I don’t eat dinner by seven, I feel as if I’m missing something even when I’m not hungry. As for writing, I feel the pull that has me in my chair in front of the keyboard by 9:30 in the morning. I’ve counted words in the past, but there’s such a diversity from one day to the next that I decided word counting shouldn’t be a part of my method.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You assessed this accurately – some of us need structure tight as a cage and some of us are free range to tromp around the prairie. We each need to recognize what works for us and not gauge ourselves against someone else’s rules. There are lots of writing books out there, from Stephen King’s On Writing to Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. I especially like books that relate the author’s writing life, then propose strategies to apply to your own books. As much as I enjoyed all these books, and many more, not one presents the absolute formula to assure my success. About the best advice I’ve heard and can give: write.
    You know yourself, Glynis. You know what works for you. That’s the way you should write – from your gut, from your brain. My only caveat is that you count less – minutes, words, pages – so you can count more – quality, plot, character.
    Thanks for a thoughtful article.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shari, I can’t help but look at the word count before I close my yWriter even though I have no intention of writing any more for that session. Yes, the quality of the words I pound out are what is most important to me. Whether this is good or bad is still up from grabs. The thesaurus gets a real beating from me.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. G. R. McNeese

    My writing sessions vary upon what I’m working on. If I’m journaling, the sessions last fifteen minutes. It’s not at the same time, though, as my work schedule dictates when I can write. As for stories, I don’t have a set time. If I reach a certain stopping point where I can smoothly pick up the next time, I consider it a good session.

    I’m not good at setting word count goals for a certain amount of time. I can’t type or write at a certain speed. So I don’t bother trying. I think the important thing for me is that if I’m writing something, even if it doesn’t make sense, then I feel satisfied.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I cannot write by the clock. The only time I look at it is when I’m deep into something and hoping I have enough time to finish it before starting dinner, going to the dentist, etc. I think I write the same way you do: when I have time and something to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you, I can’t write by the clock, but blocks of time during the day are better than others. I wish it wasn’t like this because sometimes my writing conflicts with other things I want or need to get done. Some can do those quick little fifteen minute sprits. Not me. It takes me that long to feel comfortable in the flow of whatever I’m writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I tend to write at extremely random hours. I am not a creature of habit so I write whenever I feel my creative juices flowing. I’d be more comfortable in a setting which does not follow a routine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you’re one of those extreme people. I wish I could feel so comfortable as to write whenever my mindset is at its peak for it. Unfortunately, I seem to need so much solitude in order to process.

      Liked by 1 person

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