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When I write… now there’s a writing prompt I’ve put to use multiple times as a writer and as a teacher. On the one hand, understanding one’s writing process can be a boon to maintaining one’s sanity when the going gets rough. In another sense, we all have peak hours of productivity when it just seems like the words start to flow. Maybe word or page counts motivate you, or perhaps you are driven by butt in chair time. So it would seem there are two ways to tackle today’s topic.

When I Write

Picture of Lida Alther Quote

When I write… (as five-minute writing prompt)

When I write, I write badly. After all, that is what revision is for. I actually hate the process of sitting down to write. I always have. The image of the writer feverishly at work, alive with the ideas pouring through their mind into their fingertips and onto the page is not an image I relate to. Maybe on the best of days, I feel like I’m on fire with writing. But most days the words come painfully slow. Writing has always been the way I prefer to communicate with the world because a person can be so in control over the final product. With speech, once something is uttered you really can’t take it back. Even though sitting down to write has always felt a bit like torture, it is just something I have always been compelled to do. I prefer to type and feel that handwriting is so laborious and slow. I do keep a notebook for lists and making cluster diagrams, but when I need to freewrite I will definitely type.

In many ways, I am out of writing shape and this blog has been the way I’ve fully gotten back into writing. When I write I feel I am doing what I was brought into this world to do. It can be lonely at times. While I started my blog, I also found it hard to simply dive into the novel idea that I’ve had for years. Sitting alone in a room became so painful after years of being in a classroom surrounded by students everyday. I could not focus for long spells. So I took five of Edgar Allan Poe’s most popular stories and re-wrote them in modern English and turned them into an eBook (at least it gave me practice doing so, because it’s not like it will ever be a huge seller. Doing so gave my mind something to focus on. Then as my blog started to find a niche, I finally dove into drafting my novel at the start of the new year. When I start to write I feel hopeless, but when I am done writing, I feel so much better.

When I write… (as reference to a point in time)

Six hours of sleep has been my constant for over two decades. I like to go to bed at midnight and get up at 6 am. Yet, my most productive hours for any type of work are between 1 pm and 5 pm. In those four hours, I’ve found I can reasonably add 1,000 words to my novel. On some days, I can add 1,500 words. I think if I had a better handle on how the plot would play out, I could write 2,000 words in that time. At other times, I’m able to spend an hour or two writing in the evening when I devote the afternoon to other projects.

Now that years have gone by since this post first appeared, I no longer aim for daily or weekly word counts. Doing so always discouraged rather than motivated me. I now aim to write creatively five hours a week. Ideally, I prefer to do this on weeknights in 1.25 hour increments. In reality, I tend to fit it on the weekends. I often find myself putting the writing off, but I’m getting better at not distracting myself with household chores, etc. I have to get up early in the morning to teach, and better writing tends to transpire in the morning hours when the mind is fresh, so I’m embracing weekends. What matters is that I’ve learned to hold myself accountable. I no longer drag my feet and make excuses or let myself cop out to feeling overwhelmed.

On a related note, check out this post on Goins, Writer on the 3-Bucket System on getting the writing done.



That’s my take on when I write. What happens when you write? Do you aim for a certain daily or weekly word count?


If you enjoyed this post, you may also like reading How to Self-Edit a Manuscript for Content and How to Self-Edit a Manuscript for Language.


Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2012. Updated February 2019.

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