Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Method to madness: scheduling vs. spontaneity, which is better?

Rather than going on a pre-answer rant, let’s cut to the chase… there is no method better than another. Each option has its own virtues, pros, cons and vulnerabilities. The fact of the matter remains, sometimes you need to go the direction opposite of what usually works for you if you are firmly set in your ways if only to keep yourself on your toes. Let’s profile each:



Helps you be more productive. When you stick to a plan, you are often rewarded for concentrated efforts. This means that if you force yourself to write nonstop for a couple of hours, you can really boost your word count.

More structured. By having a preset hour and goal, you will get to your quota or at the very least, get near it. You will see your writing also become a bit more consistent, which itself has its pros and cons.

More measurable. In a world where people are obsessed with numbers, results and measuring, you have a pretty good idea of how long something will take you to do. Although that may seem trivial, that is a vital part of being a writer if you happen to chance on a deadline. You’ll know how long you need to get X or Y done.


You write out of habit. You may hit quotas and pump out thousands of words, but you run the risk of writing for the sake of writing and although commendable to a point… does that really make you happy? Are you writing your best work? If you are (which is a possibility, don’t let anyone tell you differently) then by all means, stick to it and plow away.

Creativity within the narrative becomes secondary. For me at least, having a very rigorous word quota honestly doesn’t work. I actually normally try to finish a chapter to capture lighting in a bottle and have the same feeling flowing throughout rather than settling on starting and stopping. I’m actually the same way when it comes to reading. I HATE leaving a chapter unfinished.

You focus on results rather than the story. I know people who meet ridiculous deadlines and push through out of sheer stubbornness but if writing Only Human taught me anything, it’s that the story is paramount, that when it comes, it’ll come in torrents and that at least for me, having a schedule is useless.

OK, so what about the other side of the coin?



There’s freedom in flexibility. Truly something I enjoy of the times I’ve written in the spur of the moment is the sheer flexibility of going wherever my brain wants to go without overthinking it. I’ve known to pick up a notebook and pump out a full 15 page chapter in one sitting and knowing when my system NEEDS to write has helped me tremendously in my writing, especially in the sequel to Only Human (10 chapters done, woohoo).

Creativity often thrives. By letting your impulse drive your will to write, you’ll be at your creative zenith and put in a 1000% with little or no effort and truly, when writing is effortless, some of your best work may be borne.

Personality shines through better when unpressured. I found my voice as a writer when I finally desisted from having to write and if anything, I’ve enjoyed a lot of people saying I have a voice all my own throughout most of my work. That’s special to me and worth the price of admission.


This can take a LONG time. Only Human took 8 years to write. From research, to writing, to transcribing, to editing, to publishing… eight years. Having a full time job and other responsibilities did pose challenges, although the reality is that I didn’t want to force it and when it took off, it flew on its own…  but eight years is a long time. In about 2 months I’m already almost 25% done with the sequel… then again, I did find my voice, which explains a lot.

Editing can be a nightmare. When you write stream of thought and leave long gaps between writing sessions, weird things can happen… plot holes, tone shifts, you forget where you wanted to go and cohesion is a pain. I learned the hard way.

So in the end, what I’ve done is combine elements of both styles and have found a happy medium. When I feel too much time has passed in between writing sessions, I bite the bullet and force myself into a groove and when I feel I’m being too rigorous, I’ve known to step away from a page, another valuable lesson I’ll talk about later. The end all correct answer is that you have to find what works for you and constantly tweak your formula to always be productive yet always enjoy. So best of luck in that search. 

Peace, love and maki rolls,


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