– Two pages a day

Before a committee meeting, two of my colleagues were commiserating about publishing and the tenure process. It turns out, however, that their frustrations were more with writing itself — and finding time for it — than with the vagaries of the academic publishing scene.

Colleague A: I’m teaching. I’ve got the committee. I’m commuting.

Colleague B: And I’m working on my house.

Colleague A: Yeah, where do we find the time? When do we get our writing done?

Colleague B: In the summer.

Colleague A: That’s right. [He nods grimly.] In the summer.

Summer is free time when you work in education. And free time seems to be writing time. I look forward to it, too. Here’s me, at the kitchen table last summer (writing, perhaps about green tomatoes).

Jane writing

There are, indeed, longer stretches of uninterrupted time when school’s out. Plus, there’s iced coffee. It’s ideal writing time.

It’s not, however, the only writing time. There’s free time during the semester, too. There’s just less of it. One must write and rewrite in smaller bits. A few years ago, my friend Leanne, in a coach-like way, said to me, “Kokernak, give me two pages a day.” Two pages a day I can do. You do the math: Over 10 days or so, that might add up to what Annie Lamott calls a “down draft.” (Just get it down.) I’ve tested, and I keep testing, Leanne’s advice. It works. I’ve also discovered that you can revise essays, articles, and poems in 30 and 60-minute chunks and make progress.

Lately I’ve been reading a fairly new blog, called Write to Done, that Jimmy turned me on to. Not only is it a really readable writing blog (why are those so hard to find?), it’s useful. Are you distracted? Are you having trouble, as we all occasionally do, maintaining your daily practice as a writer (or a painter, designer, composer, or even runner)? Are you tending e-mail more than you are your poetry? (We’re all susceptible.) Then click on his category for “Writing Habits.” Go there; go there now.

And then you can get back to your writing.


This picture was taken by someone with the last name Guterman. I’m not sure who.

2 thoughts on “– Two pages a day

  1. Jane,
    This is such good advice, and I feel like it really applies to all manner of things. Most works don’t just spring forth, fully complete. They’re put together, bit by bit. And, it’s those small pieces that are manageable. Simply by creating them, one can achieve a kind of momentum that helps things along too.
    So much better than waiting for the perfect time to start.

  2. Hi Jane, I just found your blog via the Equal Parenting blog. I, like you, am a mother, teacher, writer, wife (order unintentional!) and I love your observations/advice here on writing. I recently read a handy little book on writing called _How to Write A Lot_ that truly lives up to its title. Can’t remember the writer’s first name, but the last is Silvio.

    Thanks for your blog!

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