The Mythical Artist-Hour

Over the last week I’ve spent a bit of time away from the usual hurly burly and I’ve been writing during the day.

How the problems have fallen away!

So much of the work I am trying to do on the outline at the moment is creative problem solving: reworking the plot so it makes sense; working out timeline issues; making the characters more complex. I’ve been working on some of these problems – or at least trying to – for weeks, but I have been doing this work in the time available to me: early in the morning and on the bus to and from the day job.

Spending time on these problems when my brain is functioning makes them soluble in a fraction of the time.

I’ve made this mistake before, and it reminds me of The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks. The primary point of Mr Brooks’ book is that throwing more people at a problem doesn’t scale – as the team grows, the time spent communicating about the work outweighs the time spent performing the work – but there are also lessons that one engineer’s time is not interchangeable with another’s.

Similarly with creative time – one hour at five in the morning has different value than an hour at ten or at three in the afternoon, and four fifteen minute slots have different value than a solid hour or two thirty minute chunks of time.

I’ve said it before, but I need to figure out a way to make time to write when my brain has the energy to work profitably on the creative problems I have. Writing at five has value – when I am drafting, I mine a lot of words first thing in the morning – but creative plotting and other parts of the process which require mental nimbleness have to happen at other times of the day.

Best to think about that problem when I’m awake, too!

One Reply to “The Mythical Artist-Hour”

  1. Kim says:

    Great points here. We all have to find the times of day and the amounts of time that let us do our best work. I like that you mentioned that different types of creative work may require working at different times of day to get the most out of the time you’re putting in, too, because that doesn’t get talked about a lot. I really liked this post a lot.

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