Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nothing as Tasty as Data

Lately, I've been thinking about time. The days have been swooshing past me, and all I feel is the breeze.
If you read the comments on my post from Monday, you may have noticed that my dad commented. He sweetly disclosed that I myself was an intense and strong-willed child, which is nothing but truth. And I'm still intense. Whatever has my attention ... gets a lot of attention.

So. Time. I started wondering how I spend it. Particularly since I got an agent and plunged into the world of social media, I've been feeling the pull of all these different activities--blogging, tweeting, beta-reading. Oh, and writing. Yeah. Where does the time go? Specifically, how do I spend my "writing" time? I put that in quotes because, as a writer, I do a lot more than add words to my WIP.

Well. I'm trained as a scientist, so I collected some data.

Before I go on, I should warn you. These are some seriously complicated statistics. Watch out.

I tracked my time for a week. Every day, I took note of when I started and stopped various activities. Here's what I came up with:

Do you know how many hours this adds up to? In technical terms: A. Lot.

Keep in mind I have a job. I work three to four days per week. And I have small children. But they go to bed quite early and sleep through the night, which is what they get for having a mommy who spent a year working in a sleep clinic.

I was comforted that writing actually occupied the largest chunk of my time. This is my "writing" time, after all. I spent about as much time reading as I did writing. I think that's as it should be. Plus, the two novels I read last week were quite good. And I spent almost as much time reading others' blogs as I spent writing posts for my own. I was surprised by that, but it does make sense. I follow some great blogs, and if I haven't made it to yours yet, I apologize. Leave me a chastising comment and I'll stop by. Sometimes I need a little kick in the pants.

Here's what I was stunned by: I spent almost five hours on Twitter? Seriously? That place is dangerous. Too many interesting people. I should follow some boring, vapid tweeters. Then maybe I'd stay away.

The thought did occur to me: what if I spent all my "writing" time actually writing? Could I finish a novel in a month? Well, I've done that before. But I couldn't do it every month. Not even close. I need the time to connect with others, to get inspired, to let ideas germinate and churn, to hone my critical eye, to learn new things. If I were locked in my own head for that much time every week, it would be to the detriment of my creativity and my skill. Which isn't to say that I don't need to disconnect sometimes.

Anyway, this is just one week. Last week, actually. And last week, I didn't do much beta-reading. This week, I've already done about twelve-hours worth. So things change from week to week, obviously.

How do you spend your "writing" time? I know it's not all writing, or you wouldn't be here. What are you doing out there? Did I miss anything (I used to spend a lot more time on forums, for example, but that's just dropped out in the face of everything else)? Are you satisfied with how you spend your time, or do you feel unbalanced somehow? Do you know why, or is it just a nagging feeling? Have you ever considered collecting some data?

On the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog front, check out Deb's thoughts on critique.


  1. Wow. This is awesome. I wish I could find 15 hours a week to write. Maybe I'd have a finished MS then.

    There's no one to blame but me though. I could easily get several more hours a week in by blogging less. At least I don't do Twitter.

  2. I have thought of writer-camming me to what in the heck I do all day. LOve that you put your children to bed early. I think most children now a days are sleep deprived.

  3. This is really interesting. Also I share this with you: "And I'm still intense. Whatever has my attention ... gets a lot of attention." Ha!

    I think my schedule would look a lot like yours some months. But, I'm not always writing either. Plus, I think I waste wayyy more time on Twitter/forums than you do. My kids go to sleep at 7 so I basically have all those hours to work after that as well. BUT, when I'm first drafting I'd say that probably takes a huge-almost all- chunk of my writing time (I usually don't even blog much when I'm in that mode). I usually take some time off after a particularly grueling/rapidly written first draft where I goof off online and reconnect with the real world. I'm at a stage now where I'm diving into revisions, which is intense in a whole other way for me so I'll probably fall off the radar a bit again. It's hard to balance, esp when like us, you have small kids and work to also fit in, but, as I read in a quote the other day: "the only way not to procrastinate is to not have time for it.":)

  4. Oooh! Data! *fellow scientist does a jig* :D

    You should at least feel good that the things you're doing when you're not writing are RELATED to writing - whether it's building a network, or reading reviews, or blogging (or balancing your life with your family to keep it all healthy). If all you do is write, then the days when the words aren't flowing will be darker than they need to be. :)

    I think you've got a fairly balanced life, right there. I worry sometimes that I spend too much time on Twitter, or reading blogs, but I have noticed that those are the times when I'm not sure where my last paragraph was supposed to take me. So I let it simmer for a while ... do some reading ... catch up with my Twitter pals ... play with the kids ... and then, BAM! While I'm washing the dishes or putting the kids to bed, I realise the next logical step in my MS. It's a process of keeping busy so your brain doesn't recognise it has driven down a manuscript road with no map. :)

    And I sure do appreciate your beta-reading time!!! :D

  5. This is a great idea, though I'd be afraid to see how much time I actually spend blogging. I used to Tweet a lot more, but I've cut back. Maybe if I land an agent one day, I'll up it a bit more.

    I'm fortunate that I have tons of time to write since my kids are at school full time now. But the time is split between writing for two blogs (fortunately I only have to write 2-3 QT posts a month) and beta reading (I always seem to be beta reading something). I also have to exercise almost every day (otherwise I get depressed, plus it's when a lot of my ideas hit).

  6. I'd be TERRIFIED to know how much time I spent on Twitter and blogging *shudders* Unfortunately, I'm still on the brainstorming stage, and my WIP is sort of... being... ignored?

    I'll go back to it soon.

    *closes Twitter and Blogger*

  7. hi miss sarah! wow doing a balance is pretty hard specially for adults. i think its lots more easy for kids but maybe just a little hard for kids like me that write and got a blog and vistit blogs. i dont twitter or facebook. for my days its school and homework and i read and write at night and on weekends. i do just one post a week on my blog and i visit blogs before school and when i get my homework done. for me i could need to get more writing time. i critique kids stories sometimes when i get asked and that takes lots of time cause i wanna do a good job on it. i could need to find more time for playing. your post sure got me thinking on my time and how i could do it better. thanks!

  8. I love seeing charts on writer blogs. They make my science-y girl side happy.

    I probably spend way too much time blogging, but my writing is what makes the time decisions. If I have a deadline, the writing will get done, and outweigh the blogging time. Since I'm waiting for beta feedback, there's been a lot of blogging time!

  9. Nice post! Certainly, each week varies as to what my "writerly" activities consist of...most recently, I haven't been doing much of anything writing related. The house renovation has taken over my life, lol!

  10. This part really connected for me: “I need the time to connect with others, to get inspired, to let ideas germinate and churn, to hone my critical eye, to learn new things. If I were locked in my own head for that much time every week, it would be to the detriment of my creativity and my skill.”

    I always need time to NOT think about writing. To NOT think about what I’m going to write. Even if it’s just a couple days, I need it.

    I’m almost always surprised at what happens when I do this. More often than not, I come back with fresh ideas, new mental connections, things I didn’t realize were happening in my head.

  11. My reading of other blogs takes too much of my time. I need to cut some of that back and get more writing done. Thanks for sharing your stats with us.

  12. Great idea, Sarah! Thanks for sharing your chart. I think I'll work on tracking my time starting next week.