Advice on building creative stamina
“I’d love to pour more of myself in . . . but I lose focus, get tired, get frustrated, feel disappointed in my progress.”
Welcome to the latest installment of my monthly advice column. Please note: I’m taking a four-week break from this newsletter, returning to your inboxes August 30.
Dear Subtle Maneuvers,
I’m writing today to ask about building more stamina into my writing time.
I’m a fiction writer with a pretty sustained daily habit. I’ve been writing nearly daily for several years, even if it’s just for ten, fifteen minutes...
For the first (and likely the last time) in my life I have a lot of time in the day available to me to work on my novel, courtesy of my MFA. But I can’t write for more than an hour and a half at a time and even that, consistently, is a struggle. I’ve been working from home, as most have been, and hobbling through an hour a day in the morning. Sometimes a half an hour. I know some artists can spend the day at their desk and now that I have that option, I’d love to pour more of myself in... but I lose focus, get tired, get frustrated, feel disappointed in my progress. Any suggestions?
—J in Brooklyn
Let me start with the good news: An hour a day of writing is not bad! Especially if it’s part of a “pretty sustained daily habit.” A lot of writers would be satisfied with that, I think. Gertrude Stein, for instance, said that she was never able to write much more than half an hour a day—but, she added, “If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year.” Joseph Heller said something similar: “I write very slowly, though if I write a page or two a day five days a week, that’s 300 pages a year and it does add up.”
Building up more writing stamina is an admirable goal, however, and I do have a few thoughts on how you might do that.