Time versus Work

Writing is a strange thing. There's less corollary between the time spent on it and the amount and quality of what's produced than you might think. Stephen King's spent a couple of decades producing massive doorstoppers with just four hours of writing a day; and what you see on the shelves doesn't include the stuff he abandoned halfway through (though sometimes, as with Under the Dome, he picks up on it again much later). The American writer Dean Wesley Smith appears to produce an insane quantity of writing - short stories, books - a year. I'm sure I read somewhere Iain Banks spent maybe two or three months a year writing each new book to the final draft. Any numbers of writers I know or follow online write maybe two thousand words a day (as I do), and it probably doesn't take them much more than a couple of hours. Others, like Tony Ballantyne, with a busy day job schedule and a family, I seem to recall, can afford maybe fifteen minutes out of each day.

I had a hard time waking up today and felt fuzzy, despite a good night's sleep, until maybe 1pm. It's now 2.12, and up until lunchtime I couldn't find it in me to write a damn word.  It just doesn't come. I keep getting that sense of misplaced guilt that I should be working, damn it: but that's silly. It's silly, because sitting bashing out words for eight hours a day produces work of less quality, not better. The brain is an organ of the body, after all, and can only sustain intensive work for so long...or so experience suggests to me.

In that past hour, I wrote maybe a thousand words. The writing comes like that: in fast, intensive spurts of activity. It's been like that from day one. I spend most of the day beforehand feeling guilty I'm not writing, and then when my brain tells me it's ready, boom. Out it comes.

Now I'll probably have some lunch, potter about, and boom (hopefully) another thousand words.

It's at times like this it's worth reminding myself I'm actually very lucky to get to do this job. 

1 comment:

EJJackson said...

I'm so glad I read your blog, Gary - I'm on the second draft of my 'first' book and have been agonising over the fact that some days I seem to spend more time on displacement activity than writing...but when inspiration comes there is no stopping me! It's good to know that this is normal...