(Credit where credit is due: the inspiration for this post comes from Patton Oswalt’s bit about how he and his wife are planning to have an imaginary baby called “Ten Hours of Sleep a Night.” Listen here.)
I know I’m spitting in the eye of every writing coach out there, many of whom I respect tremendously and listen to whenever they offer advice (like @nmhouston, @jovanevery, and @academicladder). I’m ignoring every academic self-help book on the market. I’m exposing myself as a colossal hypocrite: when I’m standing in line at commencement with colleagues nodding sagely as we talk about how the best way to get writing done is to do a little every day (even if it’s just ten minutes!), I am really thinking something else...
You know who’s my favorite writing buddy? Twelve Hours of Writing a Day.
I imagine that this buddy looks like this. (Yours might look different.)
I have shelves of books, years of experience as a writer and teacher of writing, and many, many RSS feeds telling me that the best way to be productive as a scholar and writer is to devote a little bit of time a day to a project. That the only thing getting in the way of me writing is me, me bellyaching about how I have no time, and me keeping up the fantasy that if only I had huge chunks of time I’d get so much done. I’d finally have that long-deferred piece of writing finished. Then why do I prefer working with Twelve Hours of Writing a Day, even though THWD is fickle and doesn’t return my calls or make time on the calendar, and I really do know that THWD is not good for me? A few reasons:
THWD lets me take over the entire kitchen table for the whole day.
I have to work. The kitchen table is mine. Also the surrounding area. I can finally put those stacks of books I’ve been accumulating for three months -- most of them egregiously overdue interlibrary loan books -- to good use.
THWD lets me spend the entire day in the rattiest clothes I own.
No need to get dressed. I finally have twelve hours straight to write. I’ve been waiting for this all month/semester/year.
THWD lets me eat whatever weird stuff I find in the kitchen for lunch when I finally decide to have it at three o’clock in the afternoon because I’ve forgotten how to spell.
Salted radishes and a half-eaten bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Now I can go for another eight hours.
THWD is also a fun drinks and dinner date.
I get to go out for drinks and dinner! I just spent TWELVE HOURS writing!
THWD brings me back to the salad days of college and graduate school.
There’s nothing like that feeling of “my brain is on fire and sleep is for the weak.”
And the real reason THWD is my favorite writing buddy...
At the end of it, I have whatever piece of writing I’ve been trying to get done for however long I’ve been trying to do it.
Sadly, with the semester around the corner, I will be spending a lot less time with Twelve Hours of Writing a Day, my favorite writing buddy, and a lot more time with THWD’s less fun sibling, Twelve Hours of Being in the Office a Day. Hopefully Twelve Hours of Writing a Day and I can still make time for each other on the weekends. In the meantime, I will begin finding ways to squeeze writing in: an hour here, ten minutes before meetings, 500 words a day, or maybe 200...we’ll see how it goes.
Feel free to share in the comments your strategies for squeezing writing in, or shoot me a tweet.
Chester, Pennsylvania in the US.
Janine Utell is Chair and Associate Professor of English at Widener University and a regular contributor at University of Venus. She can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter @janineutell.