Thoughts on interval writing

It’s amazing how fast two weeks can whoosh past. And I’ve just ducked in here to share and comment on this post from literary agent Rachelle Gardner on Interval training for writers.

The basic gist (based on research) is that optimal working habits involve no more than three 90-minute sessions of high concentration, divided by periods of ‘downtime’ or rejuvenation periods.

I find all this interesting for many reasons, the main one being that I’ve long believed I’m most productive working under these exact conditions. Give me a full day with no other commitments, and I’ll happily take three 90-120-minute writing sessions divided by a walk or some housework or a spot of TV in equal measure.

Such are often the days when I actually do write with joy. But I have to say it doesn’t feel all that efficient in terms of time-usage. Is this response merely the result of our modern conditioning to pack a gazillion things into every day?

I spent much of last year’s career sabbatical working in this manner, and felt at the end of it that — while I felt rested and rejuvenated for sure — hadn’t perhaps made the best use of all that time. I kept telling myself I’d probably never have this amount of leisure time again and I should cherish it… the other side of the coin was that I felt I should be grabbing as much of that so-called leisure time to be as productive as possible.

Now it seems perhaps I was being optimally productive after all.

Let me know what you think. Does this resonate with you, or would you rather sit down for an eight-hour session of high focus?

6 comments

  1. Writing for 2-3 hours at a stretch is about the max for me and then I need to take a break to stretch, move around, etc. I like the idea of shorter intervals with breaks to rejuvenate. I’m with you on feeling ‘less productive’, though. Surely it’s a function of the go-go-go mentality we’ve all taken on as a way to measure how much we ‘should’ get done in a day. Doing so on a daily basis, though, can lead to burnout and frustration. Not that I’d know anything about that… 😉

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    1. Yes exactly. I think you can lump in with this the idea of bouncing from one thing to the other: work, writing, blogging… Too much of all that with no breaks leads to burn out.

      There’s just not enough time for rejuvenation periods if you want to get it all done! Or so it often seems.

      Maybe I’m just looking for excuses to ‘under achieve’…

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