Photo of study at Yaddo

How I spend my time (or, wrapping up the Project Diary)

For the first six months of 2016, I kept a daily log of the work I did on writing projects, because

  • I thought it would spur me to be more diligent, in order to avoid having to log “Nothin'” for the day;
  • I enjoy getting a peek into other people’s working habits, so why not offer others a peek into mine;
  • From time to time, I talk with people who assume that anyone who calls herself a writer must block off a certain number of hours in every day during which, without fail, she writes. (And conversely, anyone who does not make time to write every single day can’t be called a writer.) I wanted to gather data to show there is at least one counterexample. I’m setting aside the vexed question of whether you can really, legitimately call yourself an artist if you have a day job. Real or not, legitimate or not, I call myself a writer, and this is how I work. Presented quantitatively, because (real or not, legitimate or not), I also call myself a geek.

What caught my eye: More days spent Studying than any other activity. 2 more days of Nothin’ than days of Writing. As many days of Infrastructure (seeking or organizing resources to get plays onstage) as days of Writing.

What caught my eye: You can see where the deadlines fall. The orange bars for Everything Looks Like A Face come to an abrupt end at week 16, after we presented the material at Rough Cuts and my role on the project changed. The blue bars for Mother Antonia stop around week 20; after a gap where For Worse is almost exclusively the focus, there are a few more blue blips for rehearsal and performance.

Conclusions: I like to read, or, in grant-speak, “my process is research-driven.” I write to deadlines. If I hadn’t been logging my activities, there probably would have been significantly more days of Nothin’ than days of Writing.

If you prefer less graph-laden descriptions of writers at work, I recommend:

Louisa May Alcott, “Literary Lessons” (Chapter 27 of Little Women)

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

David Sedaris, “Day In, Day Out” (in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls)


  1. Peg
    July 29, 2016

    I, for one, have enjoyed it. I liked being able to see into your work process and sometimes thought process. But the graphs make me think your day job might be drifting into your artistic life. 🙂

    1. Anne
      July 29, 2016

      Very glad you liked it. As for day-job drift, well, there’s a reason I have the day job I do. I plan to still be posting to the Scrap Bag, btw, as well as whatever other series suggests itself next, so please stay tuned!

  2. Pei-Lin Yu
    August 17, 2016

    The graph is definitely informative of the rhythms of creative hard work! Cool analysis too. Have you thought of turning the graph into something artistic, a weaving, a mosaic? It’s quite pleasing to the eye!

  3. Anne
    August 17, 2016

    What a fabulous idea!

  4. Anne
    August 17, 2016

    P.S. Have you seen this artist’s interpretation of weather data in the form of baskets?

  5. Colleen Nolan Armstrong
    August 18, 2016

    Anne, I loved this! Quantifiable data on a creative art. I live in the world of bar charts ( for my day/late night job currently in full/on crazy time known as “Planning” season).

    What this random, now 20/plus year career choice has taught me: “If you measure something, it changes/is impacted”. Bravo, girl friend- you continuously inspire!!!! (Maybe there is a market for the excel model tied to this rainbow of graphs). I agree it could be a conversation/starter “portrait of the artist as a…’middle age woman who also dances with a day job” ❤️ Love you.

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