The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and BooksI can say that I have successfully not been productive today. Or at least, not in the ways I’ve been trying to enforce for the past year. Typically, I try to make sure I write a little every day, in order to ensure that I’m not just “wasting time.” I had a mortal fear of “wasting time,” as though if I stopped for a moment, I’d lose a grip on every project I’ve got going, and I’d never get back on the horse.

In fact, I’ve found scheduling in some specific times not to write very beneficial, counter-intuitive as it seemed at first. I recently finished reading The Clockwork Muse by Eviatar Zerubavel, which focuses specifically on the organization behind completing long projects (something I’ve yet to be particularly successful with). One of the things Zerubavel advocates is a realistic schedule, something I’ve often struggled both to make and to keep. It should incorporate the time you know you won’t get anything done (work and/or school hours, for example), as well as time you just want to spend doing something else (that Sunday night call with a friend, spending time with your kids) or time that you can’t count on for productivity (for me, evening hours, since that’s when I see Andy most, and I want to be free to go out to dinner or watch a movie, without feeling guilty that I’m not getting my writing done). The book also discusses different grades of time, A-Time (uninterrupted word generation), B-Time (in which you might be interrupted, but can get something done), and C-Time (when you’re doing something else, for example: grocery shopping or cooking dinner, when you can’t be physically writing, but you can work out plot points in your head.)

It’s helped me to both prioritize my writing in clear blocks of time that I can guarantee as my own, quiet time, as well as helped me to not procrastinate my daily writing to times that don’t work (often the cause of my failure to hit that 500 word count I want). But surprisingly, besides getting a lot more stuff done, the thing I’ve come to appreciate most is the release of guilt at other times during the day/week. Now, I write five days a week, M-F, at the same time for two hours, but weekends I take off. I don’t have to do a single thing for writing. (If a deadline looms, of course I can write if I want to, but I don’t have to on ordinary weekends.) It gives me a sense of control and an ability to relax when I’ve got non-writing time without feeling that urgent “wasting time” panic I used to. Plus, I regularly get more than 500 words done, often easily writing 1000-1500 in a day, something I never thought I could accomplish with the old word-count system.

I’ve also found that a benefit of this is that I read more on the weekends, because I can, and I also tend to get antsy to write again. I get bursts of ideas that I can’t do more than jot down on index cards, savoring the world building I can’t jump the gun on, because writing time won’t happen until Monday morning. Plus, it makes me look forward to Mondays! :)

While the book certainly isn’t for everyone, I’m sure, it’s one that has really made me think and appeals to my interest in organization and an overall better balance of my time and energy. Plans, time tables, and schedules make me happy and relaxed (which is weird, because otherwise I’m a horribly disorganized person)!

I’ve been playing around with some ideas for the blog and how to get a bit more active on a regular basis. Look for more consistent posts in coming weeks! :)

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