People often ask, how long I write each day. I stare above their head, then hem and haw as if grappling with a physics calculation. My brows shrug; my mouth purses. How long indeed?
I try to quantify how many hours I spend daily hunkered over the computer keyboard. Surely this is the writing they want to know about. But my answer changes day to day, depending on where I am in the creative loop.
Oh wait! The scenes I write in longhand upon waking should be included in this tally. Yesterday I drafted a scene for three hours before breakfast. Then after a full day of conjuring new ideas, my overspent brain wound down like a fortune teller drained by having channeled spirits at a séance. I overslept the next morning and wrote new drafts for only one hour before breakfast. But while elbow-deep in dishwater, I had the idea for this post and rushed to jot it down before the ideas evaporated. I didn’t mark the time, so I’m not sure how long this is taking. I wonder if my tabulation should include time spent writing snippets and lines I collect in journals and on index cards. They’ll become essays and short stories one day. Is that what people want to know when they ask how long I write each day?
Writing is more than recording words. It’s the time spent forming those words in the mind, matching them to mental images and abstractions. Author Lauren Groff says that reading is writing. For me, meditation is writing and so is talking with another creative, watching Netflix documentaries, walking in the woods, visiting an antique auction.
Writing happens around the fuzzy edges of doing other things. It’s like falling asleep. You don’t always know you’re doing it; you just wake up and know you got it done. Hence, I remain stymied when asked how many hours I write each day. Perhaps the shortest answer to the question is how many hours do I not write each day.
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