I am still in the chapter on scheduling. I just read a few pages today.
Point 1. Eviatar claims a steady schedule is essential. This includes times of the week you always write, as well as times of the day. So far so good. He also writes that you need to honor your own needs. Writing is not like turning on a switch and some amount of warm up is a good idea. He suggests looking at email, making coffee, or whatever else “sets the mood.”
Point 2. You need to find your own best time which will involve some experimenting. This can take “weeks or months” he says.
Point 3. TO find your schedule it might also be good to start constraints; this means making a weekly schedule and marking through times you can not write and then starting there.
My thoughts. Again this seems so obvious, I chafe at the thought of applying it. I realize this is my own arrogance since even knowing it I don’t do it enough.
Having that set of warm up activities can bleed VERY quickly into full out procrastination.
I like the idea of finding one’s “natural” rhythm. But I am so used to beating myself up that my first thought was I have had years and years of self-experimentation. Fat lot of good it has done. On the other hand, to be positive, I started thinking about what I do know.
A) I can be very flexible. I have several ways to jot down tasks, for example. Instead of trying to pick the “one best” I just switch back and forth as mood suits.
B) I think short writing exercises- baby steps- do help me get momentum. These nuggets are part of that.
C) Early afternoon is the devil’s time. I never feel energized. That is the best time to get exercise, check email, clean up office. From 1-3.
D) I often seem to be productive late afternoon, from 3-5 or 6. This can produce conflict though with parenting and housework.
I think further experimentation is in order. And as a good empiricist, I’ll need to record observations to have enough data.
Now Eviatar shifts to chunking tasks. He calls this, quite nicely, “a mountain with stairs.”
Two points resonated for me. First, about outlines, he suggests only outlining or changing outlines _between_ final drafts. This may be part of my problem with “code rules” as it has been restructured five times, at least I think. Not all of these were after a final draft was done.
Second, he advocates writing and then revising in stages. This more useful for my students than for me, perhaps, as I am already a committed reviser. They still think, most of them, that writing is getting your ideas on paper instead of realizing that writing is another form of thinking. They think it is a mistake to rewrite, instead of normal.
Now, to complicate matters, the idea of the mountain with steps is appealing; common-sensical too. Break down the seemingly distant and difficult task into smaller, feasible steps. I have climbed mountains. I absorbed *Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance*. I have told hiking groups I led that to climb a mountain you have to have the disposition of a cow. The difference is that in those cases, I usually know which way is _up_. In writing, I find myself wondering if these steps are really the right steps to take. I especially wonder if I am going up at a good rate, or, even worse, going down. Efficiency and failure trouble me more directly than self-doubt that I will finish. In mountain terms- I worry now about going sideways or downhill more than about whether I will ever get to the top.
So, I have several books on writing and academia I have been lugging around all week. Some I have scanned before, some not at all. Since I will never sit down and read a whole book on writing process- just seems too much like a luxury- but I also believe that they are likely to be helpful, I decided to just spend a few minutes each day scanning for nuggets. I would rather jot these down here since I like sharing and it feels less frivolous to read and write for an audience beyond just myself.
One of my best academic friends here, Roger, who is also my writing group partner, recommended The Clockwork Muse. It is by a sociologist, Eviatar Zerubavel. That name rocks.
The nugget today is the title which elegantly skewers the misguided notion that writing is a moment of feverish inspiration bestowed by a muse. Writing comes from self-discipline and habit, centered on the notion of time.