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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-09-10 05:07
Subject: [process] Finding time to write
Security: Public
Tags:personal, process, writing
Yesterday I posted on being Jay Lake [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. In comments, the question of time and productivity came up. I'm notorious for being a fast writer, though I've been slowing down a lot, but I also put a lot of time into my writing, fast or not.

The most important thing I ever did was quit watching television. Back in 1994, I turned the set off. I haven't had a cable bill in 15 years, don't own an antenna. I do watch a couple of DVDs per month, but that's about it. Because television used to eat my life. I've never missed it, not really. Only ever caught two shows on DVD since then, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, both when I was recovering from surgery last year.

If you watch television an hour a day, and don't have time to write, then turn off the tv. Almost anyone can write 500 words in an hour. That's 182,500 words a year — two short novels or a hell of a lot of short stories.

Likewise gaming. I never did play console games much, and shut off my last computer game in 2001 when my writing career started gaining traction. Haven't missed it, either.

If writing is important enough to you, you will find the time. And I would always rather be actively writing than passively consuming packaged entertainment.

How much tv do you watch a week? How many hours do you game? How many hours do you write? You know my answers.

As usual, your mileage may vary.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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Karlita - stepping into my true self
User: manifestress
Date: 2009-09-10 13:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you for this!

I did not have a TV in the conventional sense for over 15 years - although I used the screen to watch videos and DVDs.

Now - things have shifted a bit - yet there are days that go by where I don't watch anything - and days where I do see a cable show.

Good reminder.
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willyumtx
User: willyumtx
Date: 2009-09-10 13:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Television is furniture.
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2009-09-10 13:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I love TV, and I confess that I am not as productive as Jay Lake, and I know I do not work as hard as Jay Lake. (Well, maybe I keep my toilet cleaner or something, but I do not know a harder working writer.) However, I wanted to suggest an alternate approach. In today's increasingly non-broadcast, non-live TV watching culture, it's very easy to save TV as a treat for having finished X amount of writing. I know once it gets to be 8 PM or so, I am useless for writing or doing much of anything, so if I know that I am allowed to watch a video if I have been a good girl, it's a lot of motivation and not much time wasted.

I also watch a lot of my TV while on the treadmill. Having a laptop really improved my workout habits this way. I can pop in a DVD or stream something off of Hulu, and not even notice the 45 minutes going by.

Nobody is prefectly productive during all of their sixteen waking hours. The important thing is not to let something like TV suck up a huge portion of that time when it wasn't really what you wanted to be doing.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-10 13:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am with you. I don't think television is evil, but I know what it does to *my* brain, which (among other things) is rob my sense of time. If it works, go for it.

(And oddly, yes, I am awake 18 hours a day, and can be productive during all of them on my good days, counting things like time spent with my child, exercise, showering and laundry as productivity...)
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2009-09-10 14:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
When I started trying to find more time to write regularly*, I had a challenge, since I already didn't watch TV and I already didn't play video games.

The big sacrifices have come from less responsible types of couple time (i.e. going out for drinks) and visual arts. I simply don't spend as much time drawing and painting.

This is sort of sad for me. TV and video game time don't seem like much of a loss, but art time does. And yet, even though I work professionally as a designer, the things I was spending my art time doing -- cartooning, painting -- were definitely hobby. So it was either art or writing that was going to remain a hobby.

I'm hoping to work out a schedule where I can do art regularly, even if I don't spend as much time at it, but I haven't gotten a rhythm going yet.

Also, writing stuff on the Internet is bad. Not reading -- I do that in a few minutes here and there while I'm eating oatmeal or something. But writing Internet stuff can really be a time suck for me.

Oh, wait, I just wrote that on the Internet...

Drat.

*regularly as in, on a schedule, as opposed to "when the muse strikes." You probably know this, but if you write only when you are muse-hounded, you will get some things written, but you won't make a lot of progress.
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manmela
User: manmela
Date: 2009-09-10 16:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As a counter point I would say that if you do choose to cut yourself off from certain types of media then you run a risk. Different types of media influence each other (I mean, you can trace a lot of Urban Fantasy to Buffy) and I do think that the modern writer has to be at least "aware" of what different forms of media is doing with their chosen genre, in much the same way that a writer needs to read. Not to copy or be derivative but to be aware of the market.

Of course, if all this stops you writing, then you need to cut back on indulgence of another form of media or some other activity. You probably won't be able to write at the speed of Jay but then I think it is dangerous to measure your productivity by other people's metrics.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-10 16:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In fact, being media-blind is a serious potential issue for me. It's one reason I do try to go see movies at least, and I read several media blogs to at least catch the high points of what's hot.
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coppervale
User: coppervale
Date: 2009-09-10 16:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's very difficult to write with the tv on, so I save up my TV watching for when I'm illustrating. Even then, it's either cult favs, or dialogue-centric stuff like West Wing, just to keep my brain occupied while I'm drawing.
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User: darkerblogistan
Date: 2009-09-10 16:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:totem
I am not the writer that you are, but one of the things that drove me to my nascent efforts was just getting sick and tired of being this blob-like sponge creature that absorbed the creative efforts of others, be they television, film, or videogames.
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2009-09-10 18:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
It always amazes me that the idea of not watching TV amazes so many people whenever it is mentioned in this blog. I know so many people who don't own or watch TV that it seems quite commonplace to me, so it often surprises me when so many other people are so into it.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2009-09-10 21:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I write in the mornings, so TV has never affected my writing, but it does compete with reading, which is why, most of the time, the TV just sits there, looking lonely (and has no cable or antenae so is mostly just a DVD player now). However, there is one peculiarity: TV seems to spark my creativity in that one of the reasons I stopped watching tv at night was because each time, I'd spend the night wide awake endlessly rewriting the damn episode (and I'm usually a head down, out like a light person).
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Kenneth Mark Hoover
User: kmarkhoover
Date: 2009-09-10 22:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I stopped watching TV in 1998. Can't say as I miss it.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2009-09-11 01:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
So many people here have said some form of "I watch no TV." Am I reading that too literally? Does "no TV" truly mean NO TV, or do y'all mean you are not hooked on any series, soaps, comedies, etc.? In other words, could you have watched, say, Mr. Obama's speech last night and still proclaim that you watch no TV? I tend to watch a planned show (often DVR'ed) and turn off the TV at the end of the show. Am I all that unusual? (Don't answer that, jaylake.)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-11 01:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Heh. Only way I could have watched it would have been via my computer and streaming media.
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willyumtx
User: willyumtx
Date: 2009-09-11 05:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hmmmm....

I wonder how many of your friends are busy writing instead of reading and responding to this post?

And maybe there are some who don't have a TV or computer (!!!) and use the free time to write. But their voices will go unheard on this forum.
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Bibbit
User: bridget_coila
Date: 2009-09-11 07:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My cat Sche-sche was always terrified of the TV at my n Misty's place whenever someone would come over and turn it on. That big quiet box in the corner with the tasty plant on top started making noise! OMG! Help!
I've seen her literally jump a foot into the air and spin around to glare at it when someone turned it on.
That indicates how often I watched TV.

Now, I occasionally try to watch TV, but it falls in the category of "language listening comprehension practice" and I limit it to specific lengths of time. (mostly 30 min or so.) It doesn't suck me in because generally I only understand about 1/4 of what they are saying and Chinese TV shows are generally stupid anyway.

My real time sink/ attention sucker is my RSS feed. I'm trying to figure out how to effectively wean myself off that one, or set appropriate time limits on how often I check it.

B
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cyborgsuzy: cyborg
User: cyborgsuzy
Date: 2009-09-11 14:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:cyborg
I quit TV last year because it was interfering with World of Warcraft.
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Mapes
User: mapescapacity
Date: 2009-09-12 07:21 (UTC)
Subject: Reading?
I know reading is a helpful process of writing from my own experience. Just wondering do you have any idea about how many hours a day on average you read books versus internet content?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-12 14:01 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Reading?
Sadly, that is a real issue for me. It's distorted by the fact that both my Day Jobbe and my writing keep me on the Internet nearly constantly.

My dedicated time to Internet content and to books is roughly the same, but my incidental (ie, multitasking or work related) Internet content reading is 10x or 20x my incidental book reading.
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