When I was in college we spent a fair amount of energy determining the amount of time others had put into an assignment so that we could gauge whether we had done the “right” amount of work. If someone else spent 7 hours on a paper and I spent 3 (not an uncommon occurrence) I assumed they had done a better job than I (a less common occurrence). When I started doing youth ministry the “how long did you spend on your paper” conversation became “how long did you spend on teaching prep?” We would compare notes on how many hours went into a given lesson and all feel insecure because others prepared for more or less than time we did.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that just because time is measurable doesn’t make it a good measure of quality. There are too many variables in how a person creates and prepares for time to be of much significance.
People work at different paces. Some read fast and some read slow. Some process at lightning speed and some sort through all ideas methodically. My three hours might equal your seven or your seven might be much more complete and thorough than my three.
Methods and styles vary wildly too. Many people are systematic, laying out their project in detail before starting. Others are process-as-they go types. Usually the more detailed approach takes longer, but on occasion processing as one goes can lead right into a tangle of confusion that takes forever to get out of. Some people are build it brick-by-brick types and others creates in big, broad pieces. Which is faster? Which is better? It depends.
One of the trickiest pieces of the whole time measurement confusion is the differing measures people use for time. When it takes someone two years to write a book they weren’t writing for two straight years. Periods of thought, busyness, writer’s block, and distraction were the majority of that time. When someone says it took them 7 hours to write a paper it probably means they sat at their desk for seven hours. If I have had an idea brewing in my mind for weeks and I write it in 45 minutes how long did I spend on that piece? I don’t know – somewhere between 45 minutes and a fortnight.
We ought to feel free from the measurement of time when it comes to creative and communicative endeavors. We use time to be creative, but time isn’t a gauge of how creative or effective we are. Write ‘til your piece is good, prepare until your lesson is clear, and pay no mind to how long it takes someone else to do the same.