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updike1One of the hardest things to deal with as a writer can be figuring out how much you have to do. Is it pages or hours of writing in a day that mark achievement? John Updike, who wrote a few books in his time, had a good answer:

Since I’ve gone to some trouble not to teach, and not to have any other employment, I have no reason not to go to my desk after breakfast and work there until lunch. So, I work three or four hours in the morning, and it’s not all covering blank paper with beautiful phrases. You begin by answering a letter or two. There’s a lot of junk in your life as a writer and most people have junk in their lives. But, I try to give about three hours to the project at hand and to move it along. There’s a danger if you don’t move it along steadily that you’re going to forget what it’s about, so you must keep in touch with it I figure. So once embarked, yes, I do try to stick to a schedule.

“Most people have junk in their lives.” That seems like almost the best part of what he says. Don’t pretend that you can perfectly shut the world out and be in your little writing cocoon. Deal with the noise, bring it in, and move past it to get on with your work. That seems key.

(h/t: Open Culture)