How much time should you spend writing?

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about the amount of time to spend writing….

When you sit down to write, how much time are you prepared to spend at the task? Many of the clients I work with seem to feel that writing time is not worthwhile unless it adds up to at least an hour.

They are further flummoxed when I suggest that just five minutes may be enough time to start.

If you share their skepticism, I’m going to suggest you read an amusing blog post by Brandy Jensen under the headline, “Everything Should Take 20 Minutes.”

Here, for example, she refers to book writing:

In fact, all longer endeavors should be broken down into 20-minute intervals to make life more bearable. If you must write a book, and chances are you should not but that hardly stops people, you should do it 20 minutes at a time. Do 20 minutes of cardio then 20 minutes of some other gym thing. Allow yourself 20 minutes to reflect on the times you have embarrassed yourself by saying something stupid in front of smart people, and then move on to 20 minutes scrolling through the Instagram of a now-bald ex-boyfriend, for balance.

While her post is meant to be humorous, I think she’s suggesting a valuable lesson for most writers. I’m a big believer in using small amounts of time to accomplish big tasks.

When I wrote my upcoming book, Your Happy First Draft (coming out soon!), I worked from 6:30 to 7 am each weekday morning. The book is more than 60,000 words and I accomplished that total in writing just 30 minutes a day.

If 20 minutes sounds more feasible to you, go for it. And if even that sounds too daunting, then start with five minutes.

There is no amount of time that is too small, as long as you do it every day.

Thanks to my friend Hester Riches for forwarding this post to me.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on May 20/19.


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