Author Topic: Productive Writing  (Read 3401 times)

Offline Arkie

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Productive Writing
« on: January 06, 2017, 10:18:25 AM »
I'm in the middle of reading Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte. In chapter 7 she brings up an interesting fact that I thought I'd ask about here. Typically, a physical labor job runs 8 hours a day, and the the worker is pretty well cooked. After that, mistakes go up and you lose productivity. In mental labor jobs, the average worker only has about 6 good hours in him, and after that, he's messing up, too. These are research generated results according to the book.

Here's my question: on average, how many hours can you write before you start feeling drained? Is there a difference between writing and editing? Can you edit for a longer or shorter period of time before you are mentally fatigued? On average, mind! I've had nights when I just couldn't shut it down--the story was there, and it had to be written. I've even been able to get on a roll editing at times, and sometimes I might stare at a screen for an hour, dink with one sentence, then give it up and come back to it at a later time. I've had days that I couldn't write because I was so physically tired I couldn't compose a sentence orally, let alone write it down. Those are rare days, however.

In my own experience, I've found that I am able to write steadily for about an hour, take a break for tea, then come back and hit it another hour. After that, I need to do something else for a while. I need to read, or draw, or go for a walk. I can come back later in the day and do another two hours. Again, I usually require a break after an hour. If I'm physically tired or distracted, I need to get up and move about every thirty minutes instead of every hour. I've noticed that I need fewer breaks when I'm editing, but I've not been editing long enough to have a good average yet.

So what about you? How long, on average, can you work at your creative effort before you hit the point of diminishing returns? I ask, because this discussion about productivity has come up in a couple of places with creative people I know and like. So, if you don't mind being part of my very unscientific study, I'd like to know your thoughts on the working day for a writer, and what your ideal day would be? How long would you spend writing? How long editing? Where would you take your breaks? How would you spend them? What breaks are most effective for improving focus and promoting a relaxed, creative mind environment?

Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2017, 10:29:34 AM »
Forgot to add: If you have anything or any activity that you use to improve focus or productivity during writing, please elaborate! I'll go first. Epic music tends to boost my writing productivity. It doesn't do squat for my editing. For editing, I do better with quiet time.

Offline Emery

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2017, 10:47:09 AM »
Unfortunately, my writing takes place during lulls in my day. A half-hour at lunch, a half-hour or so in the morning, and maybe a longer stretch at night if life permits.

It usually takes me 5-15 minutes of writing before things start flowing and I lose myself in the dream, and then once that happens on the few occasions were I could spend more time, I could maybe eek out 1000 words or so before I start short changing things. Cutting narration short and keeping too quick of pace to get stuff on paper.

As an aside, I'm a physician and there were times during my training where I was taking care of patients after working 36 hours straight without sleep. And that was after a rules change to make sure I couldn't work over 36 hours. There were weeks where I worked over 100 hours. Things are different now, but there is tons of research why that was a really bad idea. I don't think this could apply to writing, but one of the ways people manage is with routine. You have a set way you evaluate a patient, a formulaic way to write orders and notes, and even exhausted the routine is so imprinted that as long as you don't deviate, errors of omission, I felt, were down. If you want to get an idea of how it was just a little while ago, you should read House of God by Shem.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2017, 10:48:46 AM by Emery »
All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
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Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2017, 12:05:41 PM »
Thank you for responding, Emery. I've worked in the medical arena myself for a number of years, and still work there part time. I know of what you speak. I did a few of those shifts, myself.

Actually, routine does help me with writing. I have times during the day that I have been able to carve out of my daily schedule just for writing. I try to make sure I keep those times free of the clutter of the day. It isn't easy. But just knowing that I will be sitting down at the same time every day to write does help me to stay focused. I also try to divide my time between editing and writing new material by several hours. I find it helps me to switch gears a little bit.

I'm about the same way; 800 to 1000 words, I need to get up and go do something, see something or relax in some way. On average. I've sat down and done 3K at a stretch when the story was rolling, but that's more a once every two weeks kind of thing. And it's always on a Monday, after I've spent some time out in nature on Sunday afternoon. I don't think that's coincidence. I schedule Sunday afternoons out every two weeks or so.


Offline lamont cranston

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2017, 06:48:28 PM »

I can't stand taking hourly breaks.  I prefer to work about 8 hours in a row without an interruption.  Then I can take an hour off and work another 8 hours.

I hate switching from one activity to another.  That to me is the worst type of torture.


I'm in the middle of reading Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte. In chapter 7 she brings up an interesting fact that I thought I'd ask about here. Typically, a physical labor job runs 8 hours a day, and the the worker is pretty well cooked. After that, mistakes go up and you lose productivity. In mental labor jobs, the average worker only has about 6 good hours in him, and after that, he's messing up, too. These are research generated results according to the book.

Here's my question: on average, how many hours can you write before you start feeling drained? Is there a difference between writing and editing? Can you edit for a longer or shorter period of time before you are mentally fatigued? On average, mind! I've had nights when I just couldn't shut it down--the story was there, and it had to be written. I've even been able to get on a roll editing at times, and sometimes I might stare at a screen for an hour, dink with one sentence, then give it up and come back to it at a later time. I've had days that I couldn't write because I was so physically tired I couldn't compose a sentence orally, let alone write it down. Those are rare days, however.

In my own experience, I've found that I am able to write steadily for about an hour, take a break for tea, then come back and hit it another hour. After that, I need to do something else for a while. I need to read, or draw, or go for a walk. I can come back later in the day and do another two hours. Again, I usually require a break after an hour. If I'm physically tired or distracted, I need to get up and move about every thirty minutes instead of every hour. I've noticed that I need fewer breaks when I'm editing, but I've not been editing long enough to have a good average yet.

So what about you? How long, on average, can you work at your creative effort before you hit the point of diminishing returns? I ask, because this discussion about productivity has come up in a couple of places with creative people I know and like. So, if you don't mind being part of my very unscientific study, I'd like to know your thoughts on the working day for a writer, and what your ideal day would be? How long would you spend writing? How long editing? Where would you take your breaks? How would you spend them? What breaks are most effective for improving focus and promoting a relaxed, creative mind environment?


Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2017, 08:34:43 PM »
Quote
I can't stand taking hourly breaks.  I prefer to work about 8 hours in a row without an interruption.  Then I can take an hour off and work another 8 hours.
Thank you for responding!
Do you work at this pace for several days in a row or do you need time to recharge? Do you split this time between writing, revision, and research? Or do you prefer to do each of those activities for the span of 8 hours and then something else the next day?

Offline lamont cranston

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2017, 09:15:39 PM »
Several days in a row?  No, it's more like 30 years, LOL.  Actually I worked that way when I was a kid.  No matter what I was doing.  When I was about 2 1/2, I spent hours untangling a bunch of fishing line.  I found it incredibly difficult to transition from one activity to another so I just...didn't.  My idea of hell on wheels is going out with the girls to a mall, and doing ''a little shopping'' and running some errands.  By the second errand I'm like ''nooooooooooo!"

I have what's called 'Perseveration'.  I find it difficult to switch from one activity to another.  It's gotten better as I've gotten older..Oh, if you can only imagine what 'better' is and what 'worse' was, LOL.

When I'm writing, I'm usually also working a full time job.  So I'd come home from work, ride the horse, eat something while working, and just...stay up.  Til I fell asleep.  Now it's a bit glorious as I can write all day and into the night, but soon I'll be taking some classes and having to STOP to go drive to college or whatever...horrors.

I don't recharge.  I do need to stop once in a while and exercise and go outside - every couple days, LOL.

I don't tend to split up the time to different activities.  Not exactly.

I work on one thing til it's done, then move on to the next task.  One task might cover a couple things, though.

So for example, I got some editing suggestions on my chapters on the book I'm working on right now, and I'm going through and reorganizing and naming the chapters.  And at the same time I am keeping an eye out for typos and errors, but I'll be doing a separate pass for that.  Generally I read it aloud to someone, and review a printed copy (for some reason I find errors better on a printed copy).

Renaming the chapters requires a little research as the chapters are named after Film Noir movies from the 40's and 50s.  So i can do that research, and re-read each chapter and re-divide, as one activity. 

I also went through as a previous activity, checking for 'balance', so looked at how many pages different events in the book take up and so on.  That resulted in a lot of condensing and tightening up the wording.



Thank you for responding!
Do you work at this pace for several days in a row or do you need time to recharge? Do you split this time between writing, revision, and research? Or do you prefer to do each of those activities for the span of 8 hours and then something else the next day?

Jo Bannister

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2017, 09:20:24 AM »
Your routine sounds pretty similar to mine, Arkie.  I don't have the attention span that I had when I was younger - a couple of hours twice or occasionally three times a day is about my limit.  Except when I have a publisher waiting for proofs, when I can burn the midnight oil if I have to.  But that isn't creative work, it's mostly checking which requires a different mindset - fastidious rather than imaginative.

Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2017, 09:41:01 AM »
I'd like to get to where I could work about 90 minutes without a break and then take a break, then go for another 90. Right now my day is better worked in 30 to 60 minute stretches.
But I'm always curious about what a writing day looks like for other writers. It's interesting to hear how other writers schedule their day to write and how that works for them.

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2017, 04:05:40 AM »
If I'm revising, I can go about 2-3 hours at a stretch right away in the morning. Then a longish break, then another hour or hour and a half, but it's not as productive as that first stretch. In the evening, I'm never that productive and might manage 1-2 okay hours. If I write in the evening, I'm useless in the morning.

This is concentrated revision or editing work. If I'm doing first draft or free writing to loosen up, it's great to set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and just let her rip. I often get the same word count as I would in a 2 hour stretch of revision because there's less thinking involved.

Writing is like exercising any other muscle. If you stick with it consistently, you'll get your chops and be able to do it better for longer stretches, though you'll feel where your natural limit is.

We're all different people, so do whatever works for you.  :)
Work hard. Believe. Take a chance.

Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2017, 08:39:56 AM »
Thanks for responding. I find that I actually slow down with revision/rewriting. I get a lot more oriented on improving the scene, getting the characters positioned properly, picking out what parts of the scene need a close up camera shot, when I need to back out and get into the thoughts of the POV character. I'm having to learn that this may be natural for me.
But I'm always looking to improve what I can when it comes to using my time to the best of my ability. That's why I like to see what other people do to figure out where I might do a little better with what time I have to use. Currently, I have about three hours available (1 in the morning, two in the evening) and I'm trying to figure out if I can squeeze four in a day if I tighten the schedule again. I'm not sure I can, so I'm working on figuring out how to make my hours productive, and I need to find out what productive looks like. I'm word count oriented, and I've been calling 2500K per session productive, but I find that I may have to change my expectations when it comes to rewriting, research and so forth.

Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2017, 08:41:46 AM »
I'm pretty sure I'm going to top out at a four to five hour "useful" period. I typically write much better in the afternoon, but I edit better in the morning. I guess I'm not an early bird! ;D

Offline HPvD

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2017, 08:33:51 AM »
I do believe that it also depends on how much
'in Flow' and Inspired I am.

For what productivity is concerned, some years ago
in a job I had, to be able to work more on my own
activities, I reduced the amount of hours in my job.

While I expected to earn less in my job because of with the
reduced hours my productivity was better, I actually
did begin to earn a little more!



To your Happy<i> - Writing -</i> Inspiration, http://hpshappywriting2.blogspot.com

Offline Funk

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2017, 09:41:32 PM »
I find if I alternate between left and right brain type writing I can go for a really long time.

Offline Arkie

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Re: Productive Writing
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2017, 08:50:46 AM »
I haven't been over here in a while--being productive as much as I can. I find that I can edit and rewrite for about three hours straight, but that I can edit (not correcting) in between writing times without much difficulty. Evidently the analytical work, at least for me, is a little less taxing than the rewriting work.