Writers have a standard response for other writers when they whine about not getting enough done, or about how hard it is to find time, blah blah. It’s called BIC. Butt in Chair. The general rule of thumb (or the most common rule I’ve heard anyway) is that you must have BIC two hours a day to make it a habit. If you can put your BIC at roughly the same time every day, even better.
When I lived in Mexico I tried really hard to abide by that guideline. I didn’t have much of a social life, so aside from the occasional trip to the grocery store, there wasn’t much standing in my way. Now that I’m working full time I’m trying to find a new regular time. Lunch seems to be working, but I know that’s not something I can do every day, so I’m going to have to be flexible. This past Friday I edited after going to dinner with my parents.
Which brings me to my point. Those two hours? Yeah, they don’t work for me. I’ve found that I work better with a tangible goal, rather than a period of time. I tend to write quickly — I can bang out 1000 words in under an hour if I’m on a roll — so forcing myself to sit at the computer for another hour is not a good use of my time.
Same goes for editing. Right now I have a small daily goal that I’m doing my best to stick to. It’s low enough that I can easily surpass it, but high enough that I’ll actually finish this draft before the snow hits the ground. (My deadline is a little sooner than that.) Yesterday I went over my goal in about an hour, and recognized the restlessness that comes when I’ve had enough. Yes, I could sit there and stare at the computer screen for another hour, but when my mind checks out, I’m lucky if I get through another page.
What I’ve realized happens when I DO force myself to sit there is I lose that sense of accomplishment for having reached (or surpassed) my goal, and instead walk away discouraged because I didn’t produce anything that last hour. So instead of feeling positive about the work I did, I’m unhappy and not looking forward to my next session.
That’s not a good way to go about things. Writing and editing is hard enough, I don’t need new crazy ways to make it harder.
So, from now on, when I reach that point when my head is telling me I’m done, I’ll try for another five or ten minutes, then allow myself to stop. By doing that I may actually see the end of this draft.
Have you made any realizations about your writing style that you’d care to share?