On Binge Writing

I have a tendency toward binge writing, it's true. Also, as a "professional writer," (of sorts, saying that still makes me giggle) I write a lot. Even on days when I'm feeling pretty lackluster, I probably write a total of 2,500 to 3,000 words a day, and on days when I'm feeling better I suspect the total gets closer to 5,000. It's not all productive work, always, and it's certainly not all fiction words, [1] but one of my guiding philosophies as a writer is to "keep words flowing."

This is to say, that the act of continually committing words to proverbial paper is more important than the words that you write. Writing, for me, is an experimental act. I try a bunch of shit out and hope that I can look back at what I've done and decide what works and what doesn't in retrospect. It's hard to experiment without data, and hard to let the editing process do it's job without content. Also, I take the opinion that "getting momentum" is the hardest part of any productive/effective process. Once you've got a head of steam, creative work is easier. Long(er) time readers of this site will certainly recognize this approach.

So I write a lot, and as I settle into a work rhythm and come to grips with the fact that I'm unconditionally an adult (not, student-adult, not adult-like but just another 20-something guy who writes a lot,) I've been trying to figure out how to regulate fiction projects and fiction writing as part of the "what I do." How to balance fiction writing with other projects, how to carve time out for fiction [2], how to nurture that process, and other stuff related being a fiction writer. [3]

When I was writing fiction in high school, I had a pretty religious "thousand words a week," rule that I almost always accomplished, and since then I've generally stuck to the "thousand words a day," when there aren't other major commitments, and no less than a thousand words a week when writing time has a major conflict (like day jobs, or school). For the last 4-6 months I've taken the same approach, and while I've been moderately successful, I don't think that I've been successful enough. There are entire weeks when I haven't written very much if anything, and even though I have time, I don't often use the time particularly effectively.

Maybe it's a result of being too flexible, but I often find myself falling into the following trap: I'll have a few hours, and a number of things to do, ongoing projects for work, a few personal projects of some importance, and fiction, and I'll realize that I don't have enough time to be able to write 1,000 words of fiction, so I just spend the time on other projects. Which is kind of backwards logic, I have the time, but because I don't have "the ideal amount" of time, I forgo it entirely.

That's kind of dumb. The past few days, rather than just set a somewhat idealistic goal of what I want to get done, I've set a range, and a hard "maximum goal." So rather than "try and write 1,000 words," the goal has become to "write a page or two and never more than 600 words (on one project)." I'm not sure if it's working, but less than 600 words is manageable, it's enough finish a novel or two in a year, and I suspect that my weekly word averages will be a bit higher, though I'm not particularly good about tracking word counts (and I should be).

So, it seems like, I'm trending away from being a binge writer, at least from fiction. Which is a really weird mode for me. I'm not particularly in the business of giving writing advice, but if you think this kind of advice would be good for you, then please consider it, otherwise, that's what I'm up to.

Onward and Upward!

[1]I've done 3-5k of fiction words in a day, but only once: the winter/holiday break of my junior of high school, I wrote something absurd, like 25,000 words in a novel. I've never managed to duplicate that and I'm not sure that I'd want to, really.
[2]One of the biggest challenges for "wannabe writers" (an identity that I gladly claim) is "finding time to write," amidst all of the challenges of life: chores, relationships, employment, family, sleep, and so forth. I concur with the theory that if you want and need to write, you can almost always find a way to make time to write. Nevertheless there are many time related challenges for writing: finding sustained time to dedicate to fiction, finding a way to efficiently do everything else that needs doing.
[3]I've always found my relationship to the identity of "being a (fiction) writer" somewhat difficult. I don't have formal training as a writer (outside of general liberal arts background, and a very, loose-y goose-y writing education in college which consisted mostly of feminist history and political science classes, and I actively avoided creative writing and English classes. Anymore, I feel my science fiction writing to be an outgrowth and alternative expression of academic and scholarly interest's/projects, which I think further complicates this.
comments powered by Disqus