Many people assume that writing is best done in long, unbroken blocks of time. Some writers may have that kind of stamina, but few people have the time or endurance to write for hours at a stretch.
Fortunately, the time you have available to write is less important than whether you
• write often
• set concrete goals
• track your progress
Psychologist Robert Boice found that if you write nearly every day, even 15 minutes can be productive. Some writers prefer to work for half an hour, an hour, or even two hours. Your limit should be how much you can do without tiring. Boice advises, “Don’t let writing become so fatiguing that you don’t feel like coming back.”
In a 1990 study, Boice asked writers who usually scheduled big blocks of writing time to work in shorter, more regular sessions. Compared to “binge writers” who wrote for hours whenever they felt inspired, the slow-but-steady authors produced four times as many pages. Those who wrote more frequently also reported getting new ideas more often.
Even more dramatic gains were achieved by those who wrote frequently and charted their progress. Those who also reported their progress to a writing buddy or supervisor were by far the most productive.
Writing Schedule in Boice’s 1990 Study
Average Yearly Output
|Binge writing (write whenever I feel like it)||17 pages|
|Write daily; keep progress chart||64 pages|
|Write daily; keep progress chart; report progress||157 pages|
A summary of Robert Boice’s research on Habits of Research Productivity can be found in Gail Sullivan’s “So You Want to Write? Practices that Work.“
This blog entry is an excerpt from Write More, Stress Less: From Getting Ideas to Getting It Done.