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.