Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's Productive?

"I only wrote twenty pages this week"
-paraphrase, Matt

On the CSFWG yahoo group a couple of days ago, Matt sent a message that he wasn't feeling productive. A lot of people wrote back that they'd be thrilled to call a twenty page week a slow one.

Between this and my recent goal-setting, I've started to wonder what "productive" means. I tend to be a slow writer, barring workshop classes, because when I have no deadlines, I take my time. This isn't because I write better when I write slower. I admit it's just because of laziness. On average, if I write a complete short story, or novel chapter, in a month, that's normal. Anything above and beyond counts as "productive." My standards are low, I admit. Then again, there are many very good writers who work at a slow pace, and they're still considered "productive," aren't they? It's a fuzzy line.

I heard that Terry Pratchett sits down every day to type up 400 words. If he finishes the book he's working on at word 350, then he starts the first fifty words of his next book. Stephen King is similarly disciplined. These guys churn out a lot of books, and I'd call both good writers. Heck, Terry Pratchett is one of my heroes. Then again, Joss Whedon tends to write more slowly. He spent something like a year on the Wonderwoman script before leaving the project, and a script is only around 120 pages. Joss also is on the list of people I want to be when I grow up (this list ignores the fact that some of my heroes are men), number one on that list, actually.

For me, it seems a whole short story a month is productive. Which means we're talking about a monthly page count of 5-15 pages. Compared to Terry, I'm way behind. Compared to Joss, not so much. Then again, I think I could bump up my quantity without hurting my quality. Hrm... another goal, perhaps.

Take a look at your own writing habits. What do you consider "productive"? Do you have any specific methods for making sure you stay productive, like daily word counts or designated writing times?


Debbie said...

Productive for me is 5 pages a day. I can sustain that, and more, once I get into the habit.

The problem is that once I stop, it takes forever to get it back.

-John said...

I suppose it all depends on what you have time for. For people like King and Pratchett, I'd like to know if they had the same standards for themselves when they weren't selling any books and needed a job to pay their bills.

Recently, I've been able to get in writing on my lunch break, and am getting in about five pages a week that way, more if I work on things over the weekend. If I have a busy weekend, then it goes back to the five pages a week.

Really, I think the issue is what you do with the time you have to write, and how you make time to write. Whether or not you write 400 words a day to me is irrelevant if it took all day. If it only took an hour or so, then kudos to you.

Ali said...

Yeah, it sure helps when you don't have a "real" job, or two, or three... that takes time away.

Hrm... 400 words in an hour. I wonder how easy/difficult that would be to do.