Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Time to Write 2 - The task for the time

In the last post, I described five different kinds of time. Dedicated time, interstitial time, split attention times, Zen time, and commercial breaks. Each of these vary in terms of quantity, intensity, and possible distractions. They also, depending on your natural rhythms and energy, may fall during periods of the day when they offer you different possibilities.

With the caveat that the following examples are related to how I work and not how you work, here are some tasks to consider for different times of day:

Almost any writing activity benefits from big blocks (15 minutes or more) of dedicated time, but I found it essential to some tasks. For me, drafting is intense, usually making every minute count as a timer runs down. I also need time set aside, with no distractions, when I am preparing to write a deeply emotional scene.

Plotting works better when I can pace, mumble to myself, and scribble down the essence of each turning point in full sentences without being concerned about interruptions. Once a draft is finished, I print it out and use the text-to-speech function on my computer to listen to the manuscript from beginning to end. I need to do that in his few sessions as possible so I can get a sense of the story as a whole. And, for many of the other parts of the revision process, the level of attention required does not permit me to take advantage of small bits of time or work as I'm involved with other activities.

Dedicated time is also important to me whenever I need to take a fresh look at my goals and motivation for writing. This requires deep thinking and careful consideration of where I am in my career and where I want to go. I include in this time used to evaluate and decide upon which projects I'll commit myself to.

There are lots of opportunities for taking advantage of interstitial time. For instance, many of the ideas I come up with result from following my curiosity or allowing myself to respond to prompts, such as pictures and poetry. Development work – especially making lists of possibilities, answering questions I posed myself, or filling out forms that can help me explore characters and themes — can be done effectively in short bursts of time that come up serendipitously. Some of the mechanical work of revision (correcting grammar, ferreting out extra words, and correcting spelling) can also be done during these times. What I have critiques and short notes from readers that I can absorb quickly, I can use these opportunities as well.

When I watch television, especially ballgames, I use commercial breaks to sort through notes I jotted down — observations, questions to myself, bits of dialogue, titles, and so forth. I also can answer simple story questions, especially those that require less than intense research. Some of forms and lists that can be attacked during interstitial times can also be worked on during commercial breaks. I may also come up with war improve preparation sentences to set up my work for the next day. It's also possible for me to highlight text, either from work I've done earlier or from criticism or comments I've received.

What I have an activity that is low intensity, such as making dinner for walking on my treadmill, I can listen to articles, novels, and nonfiction books that are relevant to my work in progress. Sometimes I also take advantage of this time to refresh myself on a manuscript on revising. I've never use this time for listening the first time through, but it works for keeping myself focused on the story that is written as opposed to what I imagine.

Finally there are those Zen periods, when I'm not consciously working on my manuscript at all. It is during these times when the solution to a story problem is apt to pop into my head or I'm likely to hear the voices of my characters – speaking lines from the story, complaining to me, or making suggestions.

All this has to do with how I work, which is likely to be somewhat different from the way you work. In fact, my and approaches aren't set in concrete, and I don't always write in the ways described above.

One more point: make sure you have the tools you need at hand that fit the time in the task. There's nothing more frustrating than having an opportunity and being stopped by something as trivial as not having a pencil nearby.

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