Have you ever had a job where you punched a time clock? You know, a place where you punch-in with a time card when you start work and you punch-out whenever you stop working. It’s an accurate way to keep track of your work hours.
I punched a clock in my first job in high school at a grocery store, and punched another one summer in college as a driver at a factory that made boat windshields. (Punch in late three times there and you were fired.) Maybe you’ve never had such a job and maybe you have one now (or all they all digital these days?)— but have you ever punched a clock to keep track of your writing?
Screenwriter John Jarrell thinks it’s a good idea.
“Start keeping a time card. Check out the big brain on me, right? Keepin’ it way old-school — straight out of the 18th Century.
“I created a Word Doc called (wait for it) ‘Time Card’, and whenever I sit down to begin writing I type in the Date and my Start Time. Whenever I break for lunch (or any other extended and/or unexpected absence), I put down however long that took. Lastly, after a hard day’s work, usually distraught and balled up in the fetal position, I enter my Finishing Time.
“Tallying it up is simple math. Total hours spent – break time = actual hours worked on any given day.
“…Committing to keeping a time card forces me to be one-hundred percent honest with myself. About my writing. About how real my effort is. About how real I am.”
Screenwriter John Jarrell
Tough Love Screenwriting: The Real Deal from a Twenty-Year Pro
For what it’s worth, years ago when I toured the Hemingway Home in Key West they said Hemingway when working on a novel wrote everyday between the hours of 8AM and noon. (Even if he’d been up drinking the night before—which, between you and me, I think he did more than a time or two.) Hemingway also used a typewriter and swam regularly—just like Oscar-winning screenwriter Quentin Taratino does these days.
P.S. The great thing about artists is they can make art out of anything—even an employee time clock.
‘Art is Work’—Milton Glaser
Screenwriter’s Work Ethic
Stephen J. Cannell’s Work Ethic
Stephen J. Cannell’s Work Ethic (Take 2)
The Breakfast Club for Writers (2.0)
‘Breaking Away’—Like a Rock