When Graham Greene was asked if he was a “9-to-5 man” he replied, “Me? Good Heavens, no. I’d say I’m a 9 to a quarter past 10 man.”
Greene wrote, on average, a novel a year during his professional career as well as numerous articles and reviews. How did he find the time if he only worked less than two hours a weekday?
One can only assume it came down to his strict discipline and routine. Greene wrote 500 words, Monday through Friday, and only 500 words no matter what. Not one word more or less. Exactly 500. If he was in the middle a sentence, he’d stop.
Michael Korda observed Greene at work and described the process in The New Yorker:
An early riser, he appeared on deck at first light, found a seat in the shade of an awning, and took from his pocket a small black leather notebook and a black fountain pen, the top of which he unscrewed carefully. Slowly, word by word, without crossing out anything, and in neat, square handwriting, the letters so tiny and cramped that it looked as if he were attempting to write the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, Graham wrote, over the next hour or so, exactly five hundred words. He counted each word according to some arcane system of his own, and then screwed the cap back onto his pen, stood up and stretched, and, turning to me, said, “That’s it, then. Shall we have breakfast?”
In this day and age when leaders are required to innovate it’s useful to know that self-discipline and a set routine can help unleash creativity. It’s further heartening to know that less than two hours labor a day can produce such extraordinary results.