Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

It's the end of the working year for me now. I'll be posting only impulsively until late January, and then steadily again for eight weeks up to Easter. My view is that there should be four 8-week periods every year, before and after the mid-semester break (if you have such a thing). Each of those periods should provide you with between 20-120 hours of writing time (between 30 minutes and 3 hours every day for 40 days). From Christmas to late January, then, and from June to mid-August (roughly) you are free to write in a less disciplined, more exploratory, more romantic way. You can do so confident that there will be sixteen weeks of reliable writing to come.

The key here is precisely that reliability. You're trying to train an ability to write exactly the amount of prose you plan to write. You want to know exactly how many ideas you will have time to write, and how many times you'll be able to re-write them. There are about 40 ideas in a paper, 40 "things you know".

Some of you may be thinking about your New Year's resolutions. I guess you could resolve to try this approach, or to try harder, or to try it again. But why resolve when you can plan? Just make a plan for those eight weeks up to Easter. Decide how many hours you'll put into it. Multiply it by two. That's how many paragraphs you'll write, or rewrite, or otherwise work on, 27 minutes at a time. Then write exactly that many paragraphs about things you know. (Again: it does not matter whether you resolve to write 40 paragraphs twice or 80 paragraphs once or any other division. Just as long as you have a plan.) Don't resolve to "get more writing done in 2013". That's too vague. Pick 40 or 60 or 80 truths you know and resolve to write them down.

Be as specific as you can, but please don't over-interpret the challenge. If you know you have 60 hours available to you, but don't know exactly what 120 things you might write, or what 60 truths you might write twice, just resolve to come up with some throughout the eights weeks. Try to develop some realistic expectations about how many ideas you'll have in that period. It'll be useful to have ten or twenty truths ready before the eight weeks begin, of course. That way you can work for half an hour every day for the first two weeks knowing you've got something to say. Spend some time every day making that list of truths of longer. That'll get you through.

I hope you'll all have a wonderful holiday season, whatever holiday you like to celebrate.

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