Timing Writing Sessions

by Todd Rogers
(Sacramento, CA, USA)

Question: I just came back from a life-changing, world altering experience that has cemented the calling for me to be a writer/author into my head as "THE Thing" I want to do with the rest of my life.

Thing is, I heard ALOT of things that sounded counter-intuitive on the one hand and very practical on the other.

One such nugget of wisdom suggested that we limit our writing sessions to no more than 2 to 3 hours at a time.

In my estimation, it would take me 2 to 3 hours just to warm up mentally to get anything useful out of my head and onto the screen or paper.

Another person (one of the "guru's" at the event) said that we'd be fools to write for more than 3 hours a day.

I do not know if I agree with that.

I feel like if I have the stamina, and I am "on a roll" and getting a lot of useful material out and such, why should it matter if I know I can push myself comfortably past 5 or 6 hours without much of a problem if I LOVE what it is I am writing about?

Is there any credibility in pacing myself?

Answer: Hey, if you can be productive for six hours at a stretch, go for it!

Some of the early pulp writers, who were paid a penny a word, used to write very quickly (with very little revision) because it was the only way to make a living. I'm thinking of writers like Walter Gibson, Zane Grey, or L. Ron Hubbard.

That said, most people find it hard to sustain that level of mental energy and focus for six hours straight, every day, for years on end. For many people, four hours is the point where productivity starts to decline.

However, you have to find the pace that works for you. Some people find it's better to work six hours a day for a month or two and then take a month off. Others will write no more than an hour a day, every day for years on end (especially if they have children) with no time off.

And then there are writers who prefer to give themselves a set number of pages or words to write per day rather than a set time. For instance, they may write 2,000 words or five pages a day, regardless whether it takes them one hour or ten. When they reach their daily target, they stop. Some will even stop in the middle of a sentence.

Of course, there is a point where speed comes at a cost of quality. But that's what revision is there to correct. Often it's better to write quickly and revise later than to agonize over every word of a first draft.

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