Monday, 6 August 2007

Protect Your Writing Time

There have been a few posts recently on other screenwriting blogs about working methods, and about how much material the conscientious writer should be aiming to produce in a given time. They’ve got me calculating how many hours I spend per week writing.

Currently - although I do arrange periodical holidays and sabbaticals where I just write - I am commuting to That Fancy London™ every weekday to earn a living. I’m disciplined and write for an hour on the train each way, with a day off to read the trades or a book. Let’s call it eight hours per week on average. At lunch, I do another hour – I know it’s absolute madness, and I should give my eyes a rest from staring at a monitor, but I need that lunch hour’s writing, I do. Sometimes, I have Day Job work keeping me busy through lunch, but that averages out only one day a week: another four hours for my running total.

My hours after work, and at weekends, are more tricky. My family has to come first, and they deserve my maximum attention. At the moment - and it seems to be working out - I do about an hour and a half every night in front of the computer – half an hour of that will be catching up on e-mail and blog stuff. So, that’s another five hours proper writing to add to the total. Weekends have to be flexible. I try to do some writing every day, but it can be impossible. Sometimes, of course, I do nothing but write from dawn till dusk, without pausing to eat or wash or make conversation. My wife loves those days, as you can imagine. I think it probably averages out to about 7 hours per weekend, throughout the year.

So, that’s 24 hours per week in total. One day. It doesn’t seem enough, but it’s all I have. “Protect your writing time”, as William Goldman decreed: a less famous, but probably more important sound-bite than “Nobody Knows Anything”. As for how much work you can produce in that time, I think it’s pointless to even think about. I realise from meeting other writers that we never feel that we’ve done enough. And long may that itch to produce continue: after all, when we think we’ve done enough we might as well just stop.


Piers said...

Assuming an eight hour working day, like they do in Real Jobs, and that comes to three days, not one.

Three and a half, if you consider the lunch hour.

Stuart Perry said...

True, Piers, and thanks for making me feel better about it! It's just the curse of "never enough" affecting my judgement.

Dan Owen said...

This got me thinking: how many writers in the "scribosphere" have day jobs? I'm guessing it's the majority, but it would be interesting to see if there's a correlation between writing success and how many hours you put in?

I'd say untalented people writing 24/7 will always be trumped by talented people working a third of that time... but what about good writers working 24/7 vesus great writers scribbling away only at weekends?

Stuart Perry said...

A lot, I think is the answer, Dan. But some of those day jobs are in writing of another kind: books, journalism, etc. And some people freelance in other fields, and have down time where they solely write.

I hold to the slightly romantic idea that talent will out given time. But how much time? There's the rub.

Like your Media Digest blog, by the way.