Jeanne: Writing at the Speed of Snail

Back during World War I, a British man named C. Northcote Parkinson did some research into work and bureaucracy. From the research, he created Parkinson’s Law, which states “Work expands so as to fill the amount of time available to complete it.”
I’m running into that exact same problem with my writing.

When I was still working, I wrote 10-20 hours a week. Now it’s more like 20-25 (no, not 40, because other tasks also expand to fill the amount of time available for them). But with twice as much time, I’m not getting twice as much written.

When I first retired, and people asked me how I liked it, I’d say, “My favorite part is not having to go 100 miles an hour all the time.” And it was.

The problem is, that more leisurely pace doesn’t accomplish the things I want to accomplish–namely, releasing three books this fall.

Jilly, who has read the first fifty pages of The Demon’s in the Detail, says it is much better written than the first book in the series. The characters are more well-developed and the relationship between them is more believable and compelling. Part of that’s because I’m learning and growing as I write (yes–even in our sixties, the learning process continues!), but part of it is because I’m writing more thoughtfully and deliberately.

That improved quality is great, but I also don’t want to die of old age before I get the books to market.

I need to figure out how to discipline myself to write like my writing time is as limited as it was back when I was working, but to do it for a lot more hours a day.

Any suggestions on how to do that?

8 thoughts on “Jeanne: Writing at the Speed of Snail

  1. I’d like to write as though time is at a premium, and do it for a lot more hours a day, but without sacrificing the improved quality that comes with extra thinking time (at least, it does for me).

    No suggestions to offer–sorry!–but just to say if you find the answer, please share! I’d love to know 😉

  2. I’ve got nothing for you. Yesterday I started reading A Passage to India, and in the introduction by Oliver Stallybrass (LOL, what a name!), there are several references to how Forster was frustrated by his slow progress. It was comforting, a nice sort of schadenfreude because . . . Forster may not have produced much, but what he did produce was pretty darn amazing.

    Do you really want to lose the quality you’ve found with a slower writing pace? This is definitely a choice, and a good choice, too. Not a lot of writers turn out to be a Forster, after all, and not every reader wants a deep dive into society and human nature. A lot of readers are looking for a fun read that gives them pleasure for the few hours they are reading it.

    But then again, if this extra thinking and extra quality delights you — well, that’s also very valuable, too. Your personal pleasure in the actual mechanics of writing may be of as much value as any perceived pleasure of fame.

    February is short. You can take a month to make the experiment, and see how it works for you. March is long, so you’ll either be 1) able to go back and do things again from a leisurely standpoint, or 2) push forward with the new speed mode.

    I will note that a lot of famous writers only wrote in the morning, and spent the afternoons on the business aspects of writing — research, taking care of bills and correspondence, etc. So, if you decide to stick with your current mode, I think you’d be in good company.

    • Thanks for the encouraging words, Michaeline. I do love the quality, but it’s taken me 40 years to get this far. I don’t have another 40 to spend perfecting my craft, and I suspect it would take at least that long, if not longer, to get where I’d like to be.

      Starting to hope that reincarnation is a thing, so that I can pick up where I left off in the next life.

  3. I too suffer from this, having a disability that limits what I’m able to do is depressing. But then I think of Christy Murphy wrote My Left Foot and got it published!

  4. I have found that whether I worked or whether I was retired, there was only so much oomph I had in a day for writing—only so many ideas, only so much creativity, only so much strength, only so far I could go. And when I’d used everything up for that day, I had to knock off and wait for the next. Twenty to 25 hours a week of writing time sounds pretty good to me!

    • It’s enough time–probably more than enough–when I’m writing a first draft. Where I’ve been running into problems is the second draft, where I either copy stuff in from the first draft or write the bits that should have been there but aren’t, so I don’t have to go to the well so often, which seems to be the point where I want to tweak until it bleeds.

      Bleah.

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