About the Post

Author Information

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.

Process Play or 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. There are reasons they’re two different habits and you need to make time for both.

In the long run, consistent Process play prepares you for Product Time and sustains the creative energy you need to keep writing.

To help you ensure you have both Process and Product Time in your writing life, the table below highlights the major differences.

You can learn more details in my summer Loft classes — the 8-week online Discover Your Way Around the Writer’s Block class or the in-person. single-session 15 Magic Minutes: From Writing Wishes to Writing Rewards class. But for on-going encouragement, accountability and opportunities to practice and refine your Process and Product Time habits, the 6-week in-person Writing Habit class may be your best option. (Discover Your Way Around the Writer’s Block also provides ongoing support and accountability and is excellent for writers who’ve taken the Writing Habit, who don’t live in the Twin Cities metro, or who want to break through writer’s block or other forms of resistance.)

What do you do for Process and 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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Comments on “Process Play or Prouct Time Writing?”

  1. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
    Extremely useful information specifically the last
    part 🙂 I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular info for a long time.

    Thank you and good luck.


  2. TG May 27, 2014 at 10:27 am #


    This is a very interesting distinction you are making.

    I have been struggling, years now, with my M.A. thesis writing. (In my country it is possible to not finish for years and still have a right to study. Sigh.) One of the things I tried to get myself writing was to start with process writing, e.g. writing into a journal, writing about my procrastination and so forth.

    This process-writing was useful, but the problem was that process-writing actually became a way to procrastinate. I spent more time process-writing than product-writing. And when I entered a new stage of product-writing (making notes about my sources) I choked, got back to process-writing (planning some more, reflecting why I’ve failed with my product-time).

    So, giving my self process-time as an intermediate step to product-time has a been a double-edged sword. It got me writing, actually quite prolifically (I can easily write 1500-2000 words a day in my native language, which I think is a bit more than in English). But almost none of this writing is product-writing: instead I am writing plans after plans on how to get myself to finish my work, or reflections after reflections about why I’ve failed, why I’m procrastinating etc. So I think I’ve written about two or three theses worth about how to get myself to write that darn thesis, but not thesis itself 😉

    After seeing that I’ve gotten myself out of the frying pan and into the fire, I’ve tried to limit my process-time (e.g. use only one hour for planning and reflection). This is doable, and I can limit my other time-eaters, too (web-surfing and such). Still the problem remains: how to reward myself for product-time?

    I’ve read your blog so I understand that I should make some baby-steps and use rewards. The hard part is that as you note, product and process time look quite similar, and as the process time (or writing) is much more fun to do, I easily slip into process time (“maybe a little more planning is fine, maybe I can read few posts from Bane of Your Resistance instead of my literature” and so forth.)

    If I reward myself for writing just 50 words of my product, this easily gets me going but I also easily stop this rewarding of my product-writing and start feeling forced by the rewarding scheme. Or, if I give myself permission to listen to music when I start my product-time, I easily distract myself, start doing process-writing and just reward myself for that (e.g. I don’t stop the music when I stop the product-writing).

    Could you maybe advice me how to keep myself writing and rewarding the product-writing (or product-time) without letting process-time substitute for it? I really would like to get my thesis written and get on in my life, using my writing skills for something more productive than eternal planning.


    • rosannebane June 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

      Hi TG,
      I suggest you use non-verbal play for Process. You might listen to music (and only do that) or fool around on an instrument, or move your body or paint, play with clay, sketch, doodle, whittle, knit, etc. Writers often benefit from a “word break” during play. Stop journaling for a month or so.
      View my posts on Action Mapping (a 3 post series starting with https://baneofyourresistance.com/2014/04/08/action-map-your-way-out-of-writers-resistance/). Make an Action Map for your thesis. During your 15 minute Product Time you can do anything on the Action Map or do nothing but nothing else. For 15 minutes, no side-trips to check email or internet unless it’s directly related to your thesis, no Process play, nothing but Product Time or sitting in your writing space staring at the place where the ceiling meets the wall.
      You might also want to consider taking my online class Discover Your Way Around Writer’s Block (https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=63362 for details). Class starts Monday June 9, 2014. In our 8 weeks, we’ll work through most of my book and you’ll have places to set commitments and hold yourself accountable.



  1. Pulling Out of the Writer’s Stress Spiral of Death | Bane of Your Resistance - June 8, 2018

    […] of the first things to fall away when a writer spins into a stress spiral are Process and Self-care. I say this with confidence not only because this is what happens to me, but because […]


  2. Relax Already (Neurology of Resistance Part 2) | Bane of Your Resistance - May 26, 2018

    […] expectations of a specific outcome, will relax you. Practiced regularly, 10 or 15 minutes of Process will also make your RAS less […]


  3. Does Coloring Help or Hinder Your Writing and Reading? | Bane of Your Resistance - February 4, 2016

    […] or any other form of Process, aka creative play for the sake of play – sketching, painting, fooling around with an instrument, […]


  4. Bust Writer’s Block with the Adult Coloring Craze | Bane of Your Resistance - June 18, 2015

    […] or any other form of Process, aka creative play for the sake of play, offers a host of […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: