I keep a journal. In fact, I’ve been keeping a journal, continuously, going back to January 1, 2003. One thousand words a day, every day, from then until today (already wrote today’s entry). The one rule I keep for myself about the journal is that there is absolutely no standard. If I want to copy down the first thousand names in the phone book (I know these still exist because they keep showing up at my apartment door), that’s fine. If I want to write the words “Poop Department” five hundred times, that is also fine. This freedom makes it very easy to write an entry quickly, and I mostly try to write a straightforward thousand words about whatever is on my mind (even when what’s on my mind is nothing particularly interesting). I think my top time is something like eighteen minutes.
For a long time, if asked how I approach my fiction writing, I would have mumbled something about not having a set way to write, that I was constantly experimenting with long writing sessions, short writing sessions, timed writing sessions, specific word-count writing sessions, early-morning writing sessions, late-night writing sessions, lunch-break writing sessions. The work itself suffered for a long time, partly because I was frustrated with the unevenness of the quality of my writing as I tried to cobble together a few daily writing sessions (with long breaks in between). Also, I have had this idea that I should be able to devote an hour (or even multiple hours) every day to writing, and I tend to throw up my hands and say, “Maybe tomorrow…” when I don’t have the kind of time I really want.
I think I may have turned a corner recently. Instead of obsessing over getting a certain length of time, or a certain word count each day, I’m counting by sessions, and I’m making them very small sessions. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting in a small amount of time on four different projects each day. The minimal amount of time is fifteen minutes/project. I call these “burst sessions.” By committing only to sit down and writing in one short burst, I’m ensuring a writing baseline for the day/week that is manageable (even for my strange brain), and I’m (hopefully) laying the groundwork for a longer average session down the road.
Not every burst session yields something fantastic, but there have been bits and pieces that I like a lot. And hey, in order to get your brain to try and produce something you like (or even something fantastic), you have to actually sit down and put in the time. Any time at all.