I’m often asked by beginning writers, “How often do I need to write?” In many ways this is what I call a ‘how long is a piece of string question.’ That’s because the answer depends… It depends on you, your lifestyle, your motivation and more.
It’s also a natural question. After all, in the beginning of our writing career we really don’t have a clue. We know that regular jobs require eight hours a day or more. Do we, we wonder, have to spend that much time on our writing?
Write until you trust that you’ll write
I was reminded of this the last couple of weeks. I was sick, seriously I can barely get out of bed sick. Some sort of cold, flu, something that sapped my energy. The first five or six days I didn’t even think about this blog or any of my other writing. As I began to recover there came a moment when I realized I hadn’t written a thing in over a week! That’s highly unusual for me, but I trust my writing. I knew when I started feeling even semi-human I’d start to write again, and so it was.
So that’s one approach. Write daily or at least five or six days a week for at least a couple of hours. Repeat this until you know in your soul that if you’re interrupted you’ll get back to the writing when you can. I can’t tell you how valuable it is that I trust I’ll write even when I don’t; that I know that about myself.
Exactly how you do this I’m not sure. I just sort of wrote my way into it with writing assignments I found and with writing I wanted to publish. Today you can publish on your own blog or on Medium, etc. There’s plenty of opportunity if you work at it.
How often do you need to write each day?
Another form of the same question. I’ve found since the beginning, which for me was around 32, that if I wrote seriously for more than 4 hours each day I had nothing to give the next day. Now this was writing sitting alone at my desk at home.
When I’ve had inside writing jobs, the work day typically lasted a full 8 hours. When I edited a magazine or newspaper, the couple of days leading up to the deadline often lasted 10, even 12 hours. But the writing or the editing never seemed to go over four hours, or not by much. It seems my creativity can last up to four hours every day. If I go much beyond that I’m brain dead the next day.
I also discovered that I write best at first light, or pretty early in the morning. I can write later, but the later I start the more of a struggle it is. I found my sweet spot.
Experiment and expect change
Experiment and find how often you need to write to hit the productivity you’d like to hit. Try different times of day, different venues, and different ways of writing – computer, by hand, notebooks etc. Notice what works and do more of that.
Know too that whatever turns out to be your ideas amount of time today will, in the next six months or after the next move or job change, will change. Roll with it. One of the joys of freelance writing is the potential for real flexibility.
A close writing friend of mine rarely starts before 9 or 10 in the evening and sometimes does his best work around 2 a.m. That’s not a schedule that works for me, but it sure works for him. Figure out where and when you’re happiest writing and that’s probably you’re sweet spot. You can build a whole writing career around that if you’re clever.
Write well and often,