Friday Fun: How many hours do you write in a day?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: People often assume that professional writers clock in at 9AM each day for a full eight hours of hammering diligently on the keyboard, but usually that’s not even close to the reality of the working writer’s typical day.  In your real-life experience, how many hours do you actually spend writing each day (on average), and what do you spend the rest of your working time doing?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: So, I’ve been freelancing full time for about the last nine years, and I’d say that – on average – I typically spend about three to four hours each day either working on a first draft or revising my work. Don’t get too excited. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my share of days when I’m cranking at the keyboard for six, eight, or even ten hours (I do), but most days, my actual writing time doesn’t add up to more than half a day. This is, in my humble opinion, a reasonable target for any writer, whether it’s someone who is writing fiction or someone who – like me – is primarily working on copywriting and content marketing assignments. Writing is hard work, both physically and mentally.

I will clarify, however, that just because I’m only writing for three or four hours a day does not mean I’m done at noon. Not at all. I routinely work a longer day because there are lots of other, non-writing tasks that are a very real part of my writing business: interviewing subject matter experts, intake calls with clients, research, outlining, client correspondence, general project management, meeting documentation, schedule development, and (everyone’s favorite): administration (e.g., answering emails, tracking my time, preparing invoices, following up on payments, etc.). In addition, most freelancers will tell you that a sustainable business depends in great part on your ability and willingness to invest time and effort in prospecting for new clients and projects. I probably spend two to three hours each week following up with leads, networking, doing introductory calls, and preparing proposals.

Though some of my non-writing tasks can be tedious, I’m actually grateful for the variety in my day. I don’t honestly think I could hack more than my three to four hours of writing each day. Sitting in front of the screen is pretty taxing, and I’m usually relieved when my Big Writing Task for the day is finished and I can switch gears into something less intense.

Deborah Lee Luskin at the US-Canadian border marker 592.

The end of the Long Trail a the US-Canadian border.

Deborah Lee Luskin: Like Jamie, I do my hardest, best, writing work in the morning, between eight and noon, though I write my Morning Pages earlier than that. Since returning from the Long Trail, however, I’ve developed routines and often write in the afternoons as well: drafting posts, commentaries and editorials. These are often very rough drafts and extremely useful guides for later. Depending on what else is on the docket, I’ll spend some of the afternoon doing research, reading, staring out the window or walking the dog.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: As a part-time writer, I only spend a half day writing once or twice a week. The rest of the time I’m coaching clients, parenting, daughter-ing, and snatching writing time in short periods like waiting in the car pool line to pick up my son and in the hour before he wakes up in the morning. I also head to the library in the evenings to get some writing done if I don’t have a meeting or a client (and my husband is home.) I dream of spending all morning writing every day, but that’s not the reality of my life right now and that’s the way I want it. My family and my work are priorities and my writing comes in a very close third.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My days are so varied with different client work and bouncing between writing and editing, I can’t really say how much is writing – although as a business owner that is one metric I should absolutely have a handle on! 3-4 hours is a minimum. As for my own personal writing, that’s not on the radar at the moment because of my focus on business. But I plan to do NaNoWriMo next month and get my fiction kicked back into gear!


22 thoughts on “Friday Fun: How many hours do you write in a day?

  1. Pingback: Friday Fun: How many hours do you write in a day? — Live to Write – Write to Live | gramirezblog

  2. I write between an hour, to an hour and a half, each morning before leaving for work. Once in a while I’m able to fit in another thirty minutes to an hour later in the day or in the evenings. However I find that when that happens I write stuff other than my current novel.

    • I SO miss my morning writing time. My daughter’s school schedule used to be such that I had at least an hour to myself in the morning, but now she’s up at the same time I am, so those lovely, solitary moments are gone. I’m still trying to figure out where I can recreate that space in my day … it’s a work in progress. 😉

  3. I write 1-2 hours three or four times a week, usually afternoons when my daughter is in school and my husband is at work. Sometimes I can squeeze in another hour here and there, depending on my obligations of work and parenting. One always wishes for more, but I’m happy with the time I make in my life right now.

    • Is that writing time for your “personal” projects, Tina? Reading your schedule, I couldn’t help but think that it sounds like the perfect amount of time that I’d like to spend practicing my fiction writing. At the moment, I have no time for such pursuits … even getting that only once or twice a week would be heaven. If only we didn’t need to sleep. 😉

      • Yes, all my writing time is for “personal” projects. I don’t have any paying jobs with writing (I work as a cashier to pay the bills). It would be amazing how much we’d get done without sleep, right?

  4. As someone who’s currently struggling to fit in 4-6 hours of writing time on each of my “on days” (I have school two days a week, and my partner asks that I keep one day completely free of commitments), it’s reassuring to know that my failure isn’t because I’m slacking – it’s because I’m trying to do more than I can reasonably do. Thank you.

    • Always happy to provide a reality check, Barbara. 😉
      You’re definitely not slacking. That’s a long haul at the keyboard or the notebook. Good for you!

  5. I write about 3 hrs a day, give or take. Only on the weekdays though. Also there’s the distraction of other people blogs. If everyone could just write less interesting posts, I could get more done. Mmkay. 😁

  6. I write from one to four hours a day. I try to write in the morning when I’m fresh, but often I’m sidetracked and pick up lost time in the evening. My basic goal is to write everyday, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Here lately though I’ve even had to restrict my BLOGGING time! OMG! 🙂

    • I feel guilty about it, but I haven’t even managed to maintain my 10-min writing practice. I intended (and even blogged about it) to work on fiction writing (in any format) for at least 10 minutes each day, but my client-driven work has been so all consuming that I haven’t had anything left in me … not even 10 minutes’ worth. I will have to try to remedy that soon. After all, while I’m very grateful for the writing that allows me to pay my bills, I need to think about the Big Picture and investing at least SOME of my time in “my” writing as well. Geesh! 😉

  7. I write my blog every day, which takes 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the day and subject matter. Except for Sunday, which is a planned post that I sometimes write ahead of time, so that I can take that day off. However, Sunday is a short day at my regular (40 hr./wk) job, and Monday and Tuesday are days off. I usually take what I can of that “weekend” to do most of the writing for my news-magazine. Sometimes that is hack writing, just reporting on events in the community, and sometimes it is more creative writing. My work on those days also includes things like editing, downloading photos, gathering information, and doing interviews. I spent seven hours in constant writing the other day; that’s a pretty long stretch for me.

  8. I’m struggling to find some kind of pattern. I’m on demand for my main client, and other work entails rushing off to far-flung parts of the city at unexpected times. I’m aiming at a regular 2/3 hours at least three times a week, which doesn’t sound like much but would be a good foundation to build on. What gets in the way too is that after a three year break, I’ve finally gone back to a swimming routine because I believe I’m not going to get anywhere if I don’t take great care of my health and stamina.

    • I think you are wise to take care of your health and stamina, Bea. That’s something I’ve been neglecting for a while, but I am trying to “get back on the wagon,” as the saying goes. I read a post this week by Dan Blank in which he also emphasizes the importance writers must place on their physical health. (I’ll be sharing that in tomorrow’s weekly wrap up of favorite blog posts.)

      Swimming is an excellent exercise. I’m a terrible swimmer. I always say that I could probably stay alive in the water if I had to, but it wouldn’t be pretty. I’m still all about the dog paddle. 😉 I imagine that swimming might also be somewhat meditative. Have you found that?

      • Dog paddle can be fun too 🙂 Yes exactly, I enjoy slow non-stop laps and it is indeed relaxing in a meditation-type mode (breath in out, coordinated with movement)

  9. It’s not fixed. Whenever I get time and whenever I feel like writing I write. My writing depends on my mood. If I am sad, I end up writing something sad and when I’m happy I write something cheerful. I also write when I feel alone, I know that it sounds weird but I feel that I have my characters to keep me company.

    • I don’t think it sounds weird at all to write when you feel alone. I think that’s one of the most common reasons people write in the first place – to connect with something or someone other than themselves, to create camaraderie and community … even if, initially, it’s only with the people in our own heads. 😉

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