what is a productive writing day?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yesterday I found myself with a little time. Oh, I thought at once. You must go and dig out that novel and use this time well.

Use this time. The unfortunate Beth Kephart mantra.

Here's what ensued instead. I sat on a round chair with a heating pad on my throbbing shoulder, my toes sticking out of a short blanket. I piled upon my lap the printed and discarded pages of previous novelistic efforts (those pages then flipped, eco-sensitively, to the blank side). I wielded a pen. I sat.

Hours went by.

"So glad to see you working on your novel," my husband said.

I showed him the pages, all those blank sides. "No work here," I said.

"It's all work," he rebutted.

To me, I looked like a sloth. To the pen, a failure. To the patiently a-waiting novel, a lost friend, a lost cause.

But here's the thing: In the midst of all that apparent nothingness, I figured something out. Something about voice. A big thing about plot.

Does that count for a work day? Should I be proud? Would other writer-selves be proud?

This is not a competition.

Still, it sometimes helps to read about the work process of established writers like, say, Gary Shteyngart, who has never had, he says, an issue with writer's block. One novel by one novel (and one fine memoir) his books progressively come. It may seem to us like he is working very fast. But here is how he answers the progress/process question for Noah Charney of The Daily Beast. I like his math (if only I could rise to it).

The entire interview can be found here.

What do you need to have produced/completed in order to feel that you’ve had a productive writing day?

Two to three pages in first draft, five pages in second, seven in third.


Lilian Nattel said...

I'd say that's about right for me too, but every day isn't a productive one remember. Not in that sense. But it can be in other ways and yours was entirely productive. I struggle with the same thing and keep having to re-learn that I am an artist not a machine.

Beth Kephart said...

LN, Yes. We are not machines. I think I get so nervous, because my writing days are so few and far between that I feel I MUST use the open time to great advantage. And yet. Sometimes just sitting is the greatest advantage.

Serena said...

I've felt very unaccomplished these past few years. I'm changing that in 2015, but as a perfectionist and type-A personality, I doubt it will ever be enough!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I believe it was Maeve Binchy who set herself the goal of ten pages a week. Or maybe it was the ghost of Maeve Binchy telling me to do that. I'm happy if I write a page a day. Or even a paragraph. But just sitting and thinking through the problems counts too.

Happy New Year, Beth!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

It's always a huge relief to figure out a problem going on in the WIP, even if no words make it to the page.

And Joanne, LOL, on the Maeve Binchy ghost experience. :-)

Patty Chang Anker said...

I tried to set goals for myself of words per day or hours per week, etc. but all it did was cause anxiety. I've come to realize that I must spend a great deal of time knocking around in the dark until a flash of light makes it suddenly clear what I need to say and how. And then the writing may come in a great rush or it may still be slow and labored. But none of it can be measured by a single day. I was on bed rest for weeks once, nothing to do but write yet unable to write until suddenly 10K words came out in a wholly formed chapter in a weekend. Everything else is preparation and patience.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP