Learning to Work

Learning to work is about learning to write every day, even if it is for a short time. It’s about returning to the work day after day.

There’s such a thing as making a decision to be productive. Being productive in your writing, as opposed to having a sporadic work habit, gives a lot back to the writer. Work begets work, and when it does, it begins to add up.

In her little book Minding the Muse, Priscilla Long says, “You get, piece by piece, a lot more experience. You develop more skill to bring to the next piece. Also each piece is asked to carry less weight in the artist’s lifetime body of work, and this in turn affords an easier, more fluid working process” (p. 7).

When my boys were toddlers, I worked full time, and had to give up the dream of having long stretches of time to write. So, I wrote during 20 minute coffee breaks at work. What I figured out was that if I wanted to write a 1,500 word article and I roughed up 300 words a day, I would have a rough draft written in five days.

This taught me two things about learning to work:

1. Work in short stretches of time. Push out distractions. Try fifteen minutes. Try twenty or thirty minutes. Whatever you have time for, try that.

2. Have a writing goal. My goal was specific and reachable: 300 words. Just a couple of paragraphs.