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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.

Is Your Writing Time Productive?

Which of these illustrations best reflects productive writing time?

illumination canstockphoto6716395saturation canstockphoto3485180-1verification canstockphoto3235198-1incubation iStock_000010471225Smallfirst insight canstockphoto6258288

Answer: All of them. There is much more to writing than having your fingers on the keyboard. That’s why I call it Product Time, not writing time.

Note: This is the second in a three-part sneak peek summary of the Three Recommended Habits: Process, Product Time and Self-care. This information is usually available only to my students and coaching clients on a password-protected page.

Product Time

3d puppet with a penProduct Time is time you invest in a writing (or other creative) project where you care about the outcome. Many people call this “writing time,” but that causes them to think in terms of drafting and revising only.

The risk is that if you think in terms of “writing time,” you won’t appreciate and give yourself credit for all the work that goes into writing (like research, brainstorming, incubating, etc.) that doesn’t look like writing because you don’t have your fingers on the keyboard.

Anything that needs to be done to complete a writing project counts as Product Time including:

  • ???????????????????????doing background research
  • finding and incubating ideas
  • freewriting
  • clustering
  • making lists (related to the writing project, not your grocery list)
  • creating scene cards, storyboards or outlines
  • writing a character sketch
  • drawing a map of the world you’re writing about
  • drafting
  • revising, editing, proofreading
  • taking a writing class or doing exercises in a writing book

Even just sitting and staring at the wall while you’re trying to figure out how the plot unfolds, what images or phrases will make your poem sing, or how to structure your essay counts as Product Time.

If you show up in your writing space and don’t do anything else (don’t check your email or Facebook, etc., don’t play computer games or work on another project, don’t leave your chair to look for answers in the refrigerator — they aren’t there, I’ve checked), you can count that as Product Time.

It’s vital that you evaluate your Product Time only in terms of whether you’ve put in your time, not how many words or pages you’ve produced or how good the writing is. How can you count words when you’re doing research? How do you keep track of words when you’re revising and the goal is to eliminate unnecessary words? And your opinion of your writing in the moment is rarely reliable.

15-minutes-300x300I recommend that you commit to no more than 15 Magic Minutes of Product Time a day, 4 to 6 days a week. You need to make this an amount of time that is so small, you’ll do it every day you say you will NO MATTER WHAT. If you’re on a roll and want to keep going beyond your 15 minute commitment, great!

My standard Product Time commitment is 15 minutes a day, Monday thru Friday. I often reserve more time for my writing and often write far more than 15 minutes, but I never commit to more than 15 minutes.

You can find Success Stories from writers who applied the habits and the brain science behind why the habits serve writers so effectively in Chapters 3, 4 and 5 of Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance or in my Loft classes Discover Your Way Around the Writer’s Block or WTF Is Going On in My Brain When I Want to Write But Can’t.

Inquiry: Do you show up consistently for Product Time? Would making a commitment to a shorter amount of time make it easier to show up?

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  1. Only Writing Is Writing, Right? Wrong! | Bane of Your Resistance - June 1, 2017

    […] is why I talk about “Product Time” instead of “writing time.” There is so much more to a writing project than […]


  2. What Else Looks Like Writer’s Block But Isn’t | Bane of Your Resistance - August 12, 2016

    […] Hibernation, Product Time doesn’t look at all like Product Time did in the previous stage when you  focused on […]


  3. What Rewards a Writer? | The Bane of Your Resistance - March 28, 2014

    […] yourself a small reward at the beginning of each Product Time session. Getting started is often the hardest part of writing, so reward yourself for it. […]


  4. Rewards Rewire Your Brain for Better Writing | The Bane of Your Resistance - March 25, 2014

    […] where you want to go. If you’re easily and consistently honoring a commitment to show up for Product Time for 10 to 15 minutes a day four or five times a week, you will have a different set of behaviors to […]


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