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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

What’s the Difference Between Process and Prouct Time Writing?

ready to write“I spent 15 minutes journaling last night. Is that Process or Product Time?”

“I started out just freewriting, but ended up with a character sketch. Do I count that as Process or Product Time?”

There are times when the lines between Process and Product Time can get hazy.

It may not matter what you call it as long as you’re consistently showing up, but some distinctions between the two habits are significant. This table will help you distinguish the major differences. (My upcoming Effective Habits for Your Writing class will give you opportunities, encouragement and accountability as you refine your Process and Product Time habits.)

I’d love to hear your impressions, too. How do you distinguish between Process and Product Time?


Product Time

Purpose Play for the sake of play.  Work/play for the sake of the outcome.
Long range goal Gain the benefits of play to improve creativity and overall brain function.  Produce a piece of writing (or other art) that will influence others.
Expectations None. If something beautiful or valuable is created, it’s just a nice side effect. You will eventually write something to share with others (via traditional, self or internet publishing; public reading, etc.) BUT on any given day, you surrender any and all expectations that you’ll do anything “good” that day. 
Immediate goal Have fun. Build the habit of showing up. 
Evaluate in terms of… Is it enjoyable? Are you playing / having fun? Are you delightfully surprised at times? Are you willing to go with the flow and change how you play to maximize the fun? Did you show up? Were you able to focus on the project you want to eventually complete? If not, what interfered with your focus and what can you do to eliminate those obstacles? 
Resources needed Toys like Legos or other building sets, balls, magnets, dolls, stuffed animals, action figures, marbles, jump rope, puzzles, kites, games, etc.Art supplies like crayons, markers, coloring books, paper, paint, clay, yarn, fabric, beads, wood, paper mache, wire, etc.


Pen and paper or computer and printer. Training and skills development in craft elements like dialogue, plot, theme, voice, rhythm, revision, etc. Research skills and access to sources. Imagination. Persistence.

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4 Comments on “What’s the Difference Between Process and Prouct Time Writing?”

  1. Joel D Canfield March 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I need to print this out, partly to keep them distinct, and partly to remember to do them . . .



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