How often should we be writing?

I believe that this is something writers often ponder. I’ve read interviews of prominent authors, attended panel discussions, participated in writing groups, taken writing courses, etc. and usually at some point in the discussion, this question will pop up like a shiny, red pimple on the morning of the prom. The truth is, various writers will give various answers. Some well-established storytellers will tell you to write everyday for hours at a time. Clearly we don’t all have this luxury–I sure don’t, but I’m working on it! Here’s my personal opinion on this widely debated writer’s conundrum.

On average, I write five to eight hours a week. When I say “write,” generally what I am referring to is my novel-in-progress or one of my many, many underdeveloped short stories. For the most part, I don’t include writing this blog or engaging in other forms of social networking as part of my writing time. I am solely commenting on my ‘work,’ or in other words, the pieces I hope-upon-hope, wish-upon-wish will one day be in print.

I teach both day and evening courses, and as a result, certain days of the week are unavailable for writing. The benefit of this is that on other days, I have a light course load, which leaves plenty of (non-excusable) hours to enter the thriving world of my own creation. In other words, it is necessary that I both find and make time to be the scribe I so desire to be. On Tuesdays, I’ll grab an hour after work. Thursdays I finish teaching at 3 pm, hence I can fit in two hours or more. This quarter, I am off on Fridays, so I take at least a three hour chunk to devote to the art. Then there are the weekends, which depending on my level of ‘open availability,’ I either have two extra Fridays, or, sadly, a Monday or Wednesday (days in which writing is not possible).

Of course when the quarter changes I’ll have to formulate a new plan, but until then this is what I work with. Are there some weeks when I write only three hours? Of course; life’s ebb is ever changing, but the key truly is persistence. If I miss a day, I’ll find another where I can make up for it. But regardless of the unpredictability of time, I’ve been working with this (albeit inconsistent) schedule since August 2010. The truth is, though I am still in the midst of perfecting it all, I really have made considerable progress.

I think the key is this: Look for time, make time, and utilize time. You know your schedule better than anyone else. But if you decide to write, you need to sit down and do it. Trust me, in this enterprise, it truly is the only way.



Filed under The Writing Life, Why We Write, Writing Fears, Writing Process, Writing Tips

8 responses to “How often should we be writing?

  1. 5 to 8 hours a week is a lot! I wish I was writing that much. I'm usually lucky to get more than 2 hours done in a week. I do type somewhat fast though. My schedule doesn't stay concrete enough for me to find the time to write. I usually just have to wait until something gets cancelled and I can spend a few minutes writing.

  2. Hi Kamille,I know what you mean about the schedules, because mine isn't a fixed one either, so I always readjusting.What types of writing do you do? Fiction, poetry, nonfiction? Novels, short stories, essays?

  3. I write every day–well, some of those days are for revision or editing for clients, but it's all writing related. I really think your writing mind is a muscle you have to exercise. The more you write, the better you get at it.

  4. Kelly–how often each day do you write? One hour? Three hours? Does it vary? I love the point you made about the mind being a writing muscle! It's true; if you want flat abs, do crunches. If want to publish a novel, write!

  5. I write (almost) every weekday, during my commute–30-45 minutes of train or bus time each way. If I am absolutely too tired to write (I'm full-time faculty, sometimes my brain is worn out!) I read something about writing. I don't always write on weekends, but I usually take Sunday evenings to type up my "story so far". I find I do best when I write every day, even just a little–it's easier to fall back into the story at hand (currently at work on a novel).But I agree with Kelly; I have to write, and grade writing, and talk about writing and communication, all the time on the job; this work keeps my writing muscles warm, in a sense, so that it's easier to jump into my own fiction and work hard right away.

  6. Yes, I like your method of time little chunks of time here and there. It can be frustrating sometimes, because naturally I'd prefer "uninterrupted" time, but you got to make the most of it!

  7. I have set times when both kids are in school, and I use those 6ish hours per week to write. Sometimes I work on the novels, sometimes a blog post, sometimes a short piece to sub to a magazine. but i always write during this time. The only choice I give myself is what to write.I write MG, so often I read a chapter to the boys before bed and then edit the chapter immediately after they go to bed. some evenings, it turns into a long work session. Others, I just set it aside.All in all, I probably write between 6-10 hours per week.

  8. Hi Melanie,That sounds like good plan. I like how you read your own work to your kids. Sometimes it's not about finding time, it's about making time. That's partly why I asked this question. To be a writer truly does take time.

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