Recently, on Ali’s blog (see left), she brought up the question of productivity. One of our mutual writer-people, Matt, had stated that he considered a 22 page week a slow one. He stated that he was feeling ‘down’ because of this lack of productivity. The immediate response was that he should basically suck-it-up because that was better than most of us did in a month.

Later Matt posted that he was out of his rut and had produced a decent 74 pages this week.

Well, glad he fixed that.

But the question for me: What is truly productive? No one in their right mind would say that 74 pages is unproductive. No way. But what if you’re stuck in you story? You don’t know which way your character should turn. Suddenly it doesn’t seem okay to set the bomb off at that particular point in the story. Is plunging ahead when facing these kind of things okay? What if you don’t know exactly how to word something? The language seems all wrong? (First, I’d say you were overthinking…but this is just a what if…)

Personally, I just took the month of July off from writing because I wanted to re-read all the Harry Potter books and enjoy the seventh without feeling like I had to get something down on paper. I wanted to sink into a story–one that I would never be able to tell because it belongs to one J.K. Rowling. I insisted that she take me somewhere I’ve never been, into a world I’ll only be able to see because she showed me. After that, I figured, I’ll come back to my story.

Instead of writing one word this month, I read over 3,000 pages. (If Matt keeps going at his 74ish-page-per-week pace, he should hit Potter-length in about 40 weeks) I learned a great deal about characterization, foreshadowing, and ending (bittersweet, but necessary). Possibly I could have learned all that without reading a page. But I think I’ll have saved myself a lot of time by listening to a woman who did a lot of work over seventeen years. Paying attention is just as productive as churning out pages, in my opinion.

Ali J.K.Rowling Writing Problems

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Yay! Jenny has a writing blog. Welcome to the fun.I agree that productivity is subjective. If I’m driving home from work and figure out how to get around that nasty plot hole that’s been stopping me for weeks, that’s a hugely productive day–without putting a single word on paper. But I’ve had times that I knocked out ten pages of dreck. Was I productive? Hard to tell. If I can make something out of the dreck later, yes. If getting out the dreck leads me to some fabulosity, yes. If it’s just dreck, then not so much.My guess is that in Matt’s case, the 74 pages is easy. It’s the sitting quietly and paying attention that’s the hard part. So, therefore, it would be more productive for him.

  2. It’s funny, how sometimes the best thing we can do as writers is to not write. I always wince when someone is talking about being a writer and I ask them what they read, and they say they don’t. How can that ever work? By the same token, you can read all you want, but unless you take a closer look at how it all works, then reading alone isn’t going to teach you much – except what you get out of it by osmosis.Cheers for the reading binge. Sounds like you’re feeling a bit recharged, too.

  3. Productivity has many facets to it. I could type 74 pages of iosdga;ojghsaoguhsagouasdhg;ouasdbv;aosugbsa;gubas;ogbas;ogbs;gosag;oasjbg;asojgb;asojg really easily, but that doesn’t mean I’ve made myself better. Not that I suspect that’s what Matt did by any stretch of the imagination, but putting on a number on it isn’t always reliable.I read somewhere that you can “write without writing.” Taking time to think, making notes, reading other people’s work, and just being engaged in writing in some form or another is just as good as sitting at the computer and banging your head against the keyboard.I took this month off from my main work to work on a short story, because I hit a wall last month. I wasn’t getting farther with it. Perhaps the word shouldn’t be PRODUCTIVITY, but perhaps PROGRESS. The question should be, have you progressed in your growth as a writer by what you were doing?

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