"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
August 6, 2008

Writing, Time And Creative Space

Merlin posted a great quote today on 43 folders, from novelist Neal Stephenson, Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are […]

Merlin posted a great quote today on 43 folders, from novelist Neal Stephenson,

Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can’t concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can’t do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.

Right there is the core of the struggle I had as a writer in India. Did I have four hours a day to myself? Yes, I often did. Was that ever available as one solid block? No, almost never. In fact, I seldom had an hour to myself. India is the land of interruptions and for me, that was hard to take.

There are lessons here is knowing yourself as a creator and maker. Merlin points out the way Stephenson has managed to be successful as a writer at the expense of being a good correspondent (emailer, etc.). It comes back to creating a working ecology that lets you flourish – space, time, room, environment. Processes like GTD will help you get the “ready state” in terms of your stuff and mental pre-occupations in check – but you still need to be realistic about the time you require to get meaning amounts of work done.

Responses
Randall 14 years ago

Very good post Fern,

That captures exactly my frustration at creating anything of depth, including sermons or just even time being silent.

I tend to blame myself because I had the four hours, and I didn’t get anything productive done. Only they were four hours made up of bits and pieces along the way.

There is something rich and luxurious about facing the fact that it’s uninterupted hours I need.

Thanks again guy, good post.

Toni 14 years ago

I understand the issue, even as a non-writer.

If my beloved as a weakness, it’s her inability to accept that I can be present but unavailable. If I try to write something for leading a small group, she’ll talk to me. If I’m on the phone, she’ll sometimes try to talk to me. Things are much better than they used to be, but at one time it was an issue.

At work, the pleasure of having staff is that they refer to you. Usually when you need to focus on a document. Or emails land (and in the world of Lotus notes, cut across whatever you do until dismissed). Or the phone goes.

Time.

It’s a reason I developed the (unhealthy) habit of staying up ’till 2am. 3 hours all to myself.

I’ve had to stop now, of course.

Mike 14 years ago

Wow – this was timely. Thanks.

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