Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Posted by on March 3, 2010 in uncategorized, writing | 13 comments

Yesterday, my friend   posted her own "rules" for writers.  One of those rules was:

Determine your minimum writing block and plan your time accordingly. Some folks can’t write unless they have a full three hours. Other writers can get productive work done in 20 minute chunks.

This rule resonated for me.  A lot.  When I was working my day job, I wrote in the mornings, before I went into the office.  All too often, I got caught up in answering emails, making blog posts, playing Spider Solitaire, and otherwise not writing.  I generally came to my senses about half an hour before I needed to leave the house.  Then, I would write like a fiend, often tossing off one or two thousand words in that block of time.

I wrote eight novels that way.

(OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I also did Writing Marathons – taking a week of vacation from the day job and churning out 35K words, under pain of irrevocable disappointment for having lost otherwise perfectly good vacation days.)

My writing habits have changed now, and I tend to spent two- or three-hour chunks in my chair.  But I still know that I can get meaningful work done in half an hour (or, to be truthful, in fifteen minutes.)

So?  How about you?  What’s the minimal amount of time that’s "worthwhile" for you to start writing?  Do you feel the same way about reading?

Mindy, pleased with today’s marathon session, which yielded a full chapter that had been giving her untold trouble


  1. The minimum is if I am at my computer. And that means I should be writing now. :>) If I get interrupted in five minutes, it’s still five minutes of work…so I don’t limit myself by blocking time. It’s more forcing myself to concentrate…instead of hopping around the internets like I’m doing now!

    • I try to work in blocks, too, but it can be hard. I leave my email on, which pulls me out of what I’m working on. (If I turn it off, though, my brain worries that I’m missing something very important!)

      • I have a very hard time shutting of email, but when I absolutely must get something done–it has to go. Otherwise I see the little icon when something comes in and I can’t resist. And once I’m away from the editor, checking forums really seems like checking email…and then…

  2. I sort of stole it from Connie Willis. I heard her talking on a panel, about reading a book on writing that said to allow at least 3 hours to write in. She figured if she did that, she would never write anything (her daughter was school-age at the time) so she wrote whenever she could (in longhand, yet!) even when it was just for 20 minutes, sitting in the car during soccer practice.

    Everyone is different. I guess some folks really do need 3 hours, especially writers who get spoiled by writing full time. -)

    • Wow – three hours minimum?!? That sounds like one of those people who enjoys being in the “super secret club” of writers, but doesn’t have any sense of how the real world works.

  3. I *do* need larger chunks of time to get myself going &#8212 at least 45 minutes. It takes a bit for my brain to settle down into work. This doesn’t jive well with a day job, so I’m toying with the idea of getting up earlier so that I can achieve more before work.

    Then, too, I get into the habit of checkingi e-mail and other stuff like Livejournal (*cough* um). Maybe this sounds silly, but with all of the extra time I spend writing, I find I get a bit lonely, so going online to hear what other people have to talk about can get a bit addictive. Naturally, on the days when I *don’t* check my messages/blogs/interwebs, I get into a more productive mindset faster. It’s frustrating to have social and antisocial needs warring for dominance all the time.

    • When I needed longer chunks of time to write, I *forced* myself to do my other computer stuff (email, games – this was before social networking) in other time slots. My then-employer probably isn’t thrilled to hear that though :: wry grin ::

  4. I can scratch down some notes in any short amount of time, but my real writing is best done in two to three hour chunks. I have to get in the zone…

    • I agree – I make myself use scraps of time, but my best writing comes at the end of about 2.5 hours – things just floooow then.

  5. I usually need at least 2-3 hours. I have a really crappy sense of how much time has passed, so when I know I have to go somewhere or do something anytime soon I can’t concentrate because I don’t want to miss whatever it is I have scheduled.

    And wow, there were a ton of I’s in that last sentence.

    • Hey, I asked about *you*, so how could you avoid saying *I*? 🙂

      One remnant of my mis-spent youth as a lawyer – I have a pretty accurate sense of time. (We used to bill in six-minute increments, so I got used to recording how much time I was working on a project.) Never let it be said that my legal career amounted to nothing! 🙂

  6. I can’t write in little bits. ::chuckle::

    I need a weekend — preferably away from my apartment. Anything less and I find other things keep me busy and out of the writing zone(usually work related stuff).

    Mind you, I find this works really well for me. I know I only have a weekend, so will often get about 10-12,000 words in a single go. As long as I plan them regularly, I can make good progress.

    • Interesting… I think this is sort of like my Writing Marathons – if I was going to take the time off of work, and stock the kitchen, and have a writing plan in place, I was going to *write*, dammit!

      I still find writing retreats helpful, for the same reason, even though I don’t *need* them. I longed to go on one the entire time I was day-jobbing, but I never did…