How long should I spend each writing period?

I was reading an article in The New Yorker by Caleb Crain about Jack London and I had to wonder if I’m doing enough. I don’t agree with a lot of what London says nor do I look for him as inspiration for lifestyle. But he was a very successful writer in his own lifetime. I doubt I’ll ever have the same commercial success that he had but when one’s goal is to make money by writing, one can certainly look at London and say “he must have done something right.” The article pointed out that London forced himself at times to write for several hours a day, at times up to fifteen. I got the impression that this wasn’t a life-long habit but it still dwarfs the amount that I do on a regular basis. I try to tell myself that the fact that I’m regular is the important thing and that I’m going for quality rather than quantity.

That’s all well and good but sometimes I feel like progress can be slow. It could just be that I’m being hard on myself. After all, I do write quickly. The usual habit lately is to write two to three new pages on my new novel, which only takes me about an hour. I try to live a fuller life with dedicating times throughout the week for music as well as a workout schedule. That’s not to mention that I work full-time. All of this makes me a part-time writer although I find that I identify myself as a writer above all else. (All of this, by the way, does not include the time it takes me to write a blog post each day.)

Is this what it’s all about, then? I want to take longer on writing so I have more work done, but it may not be so much a question of progressing on the work in progress as much as it is my identity as a writer. If I got paid for what I do it would make the identity a lot easier to swallow. So as far as that goes progressing on the works I’m doing should, I hope, get me there eventually. In that case the time spent isn’t important as long as I’m working. But in the back of my head, however, I feel inadequate when, after an hour or so and 2,000 words later I feel too burnt out to continue.

A change in schedule may not go amis. I work during the day and sometimes in order to keep myself awake to write afterwards I have to resort to an extra cup of coffee. That doesn’t sound so bad but it doesn’t last forever. Besides that, I inherited a weak bladder so with that extra coffee I get distracted throughout the writing period. But what if I got up at midnight and wrote before I went to work? I wouldn’t be able to work on music and jog at that time of the day as there’s somebody living in the apartment below me but maybe I would get more writing done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to work at five in the morning five days a week.

Or it could just be that I’m making excuses. If I want to sit down and spend the time to write, I need to sit down and spend the time writing. If I need to take a break after an hour then I should do it. Writing in my apartment could also be a problem as that means more distractions. But taking my computer out to a coffee shop can get expensive after a while. That’s not to mention that everybody has wi-fi. Although I think I’m pretty good about keeping that distraction away as aside from this blog and checking the weather, I do very little online these days. Maybe I could set aside a “coffee fund” from each paycheck so I can spend more days in the week writing in coffee shops.

Or I could just be beating myself up because I just read an article about Jack London which makes me feel inadequate.


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