There’s a negative connotation to the word “binge”. It suggests a lack of control and discipline. As a survivor of probably a dozen binges or more over the last six years, I think there’s something to be said for them.
In 2006 I wrote my very first first draft during the Three-Day Novel Contest. That weekend – seventy-two hours of write, eat and sleep – was a revelation to me in several ways.
First, I hadn’t completed a serious novel draft since I turned into a competent writer. Yes, I had my obligatory bad novels, written when I was thirteen and fifteen, but everything since had been short stories at most. That weekend – pow! A whole novel drafted!
Second, having large chunks of time during which nobody expected you to do anything but write was really productive. I know that you should be able to write in small spans of time, too. In fact, most of my writing is done in the one-hour-plus commute to work in the morning. But, hot damn, that uninterrupted four-to-six-hour stretch is just amazing!
Third, it was fun. So much fun, in fact, that the four of us who participated decided to have a regular three-day-binge of our own every few months. Some members of the writers’ group showed up for one day, or two days, but there’s a hard-core group of four – Angie, Gordon, Kevin and I – who hit every one.
Then life happened to people; babies, full-time jobs, stuff like that. This year we’re trying something different. The three-to-five-day binges every three months have been rejigged to monthly two-day binges. They’re easier to fit in, and they are almost as productive as the four-day ones.
They’ve also developed, over the years since that Three-Day Novel event, into something more than the original concept. We use them now to socialize over meals with fellow writers, to brainstorm about the work in hand, and to read.
Breakfast is check-in. What are the day’s goals? Where are you with your project now? Lunch – more check-in, and some discussion. Hit a snag? Talk about it at lunch. Someone’s going to have an idea. At supper we check back in and read aloud from what we’ve done that day. It’s something we all look forward to.
Kevin is writing a science-fiction graphic novel. Angie is currently working on collection of linked stories. Gordon has both a novel and a major non-fiction project going. Tracy, Pauline and I are all working on novels. Whoever is there for supper and has worked on their writing during the day reads something aloud for the table. Feedback is always positive – these are first drafts, tender little plants that we spare from the frost of critique. Besides, there’s always a bit of wine with dinner, and we’re far too well-fed and cheerful to be critical.
I can’t recommend the binge as the only way to write, but for a kick-off or a wrap-up, or just a change of pace, maybe total immersion and a little less discipline is a good thing. It works for us.