Intermittent Writing

I advise students and scholars to do their writing in the morning. If you can find between half an hour and three hours every weekday morning two write between one and six paragraphs, you’ve got a good basis to build a healthy writing habit. It occurred to me the other day that, by following this advice, I am these days also writing always in my fasting window. As I mentioned on Friday, I’m trying “intermittent fasting” and I now only eat between noon and eight in the evening.

This idea of limiting certain activities to particular times of day seems sound to me. For one thing, it takes a lot of the guilt out of not writing — and not fasting, i.e., eating. When you’re trying to get a piece of writing (a paper or whole dissertation) finished, you have a tendency to think of every hour that you don’t spend writing as a betrayal. Likewise, when you’re trying to lose weight, you start thinking of every bite as cheating. But this strategy of “intermittent” fasting or writing let’s you control your conscience simply by looking at the clock. Are you not writing? Did you just have a snack? Well, is it after noon? If so, don’t worry about it.

Consider writing plans that don’t quite turn out like you had hoped. If you had planned to write between, say, 8:00 and 10:00 and suddenly discover that it’s 10:20 and you have accomplished nothing, remind yourself that today’s writing window has now closed. Don’t carry the task with you for the rest of the day; don’t try squeeze a paragraph or two in between meetings. Just plan to try again tomorrow morning. Put the burden down.

You have other things things to do. Organize your life so that you only have about five hours every day when you could possibly be writing. It’s fine not to be writing outside of that window.

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