For people who are making the step from a hobby writer to a professional writer, there’s something that weighs heavily on the mind – how fast, or how much, should I be writing?
This is especially true of fiction, where writing speeds vary from multiple books a year to one book a decade. Published authors are frequently plagued with ‘but when is the next one coming out?’ demands, which creates a unique kind of pressure that I’ve discussed before.
Today I want to talk about the speed at which you write, because it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. As you might know, for the past few months I’ve been working to a daily schedule, something that has markedly improved my mental health. In that, I have two hours a day scheduled for fiction writing. That’s all. Ten hours a week.
Frequently, I wonder whether this is enough.
I remind myself that my job is more than just novels, though that’s my ‘main thing’ – or at least what I’m trying to make the main thing. Additional to that I do several hours a week on blogs, even more hours on the administrative side of self-publishing and being self-employed in general, plus a whole bunch of hours on another job. I’m not exactly lacking for effort these days.
But part of me continues to think that I should, you know, be writing more. That I should, to quote the perfect and wonderful Lin-Manuel Miranda, be ‘writing like I’m running out of time’. I know I can write fast enough and fluidly enough to write multiple books a year, if I wanted. I know that’s possible – and sometimes the pressure of both wanting and needing to produce makes me feel like I ought to.
The thing is, it’s never isolated like that. It’s not just a case of ‘I should be writing more’, for me or for anyone. Because sure, I could double my writing hours. But to do that, I’ve got to reduce some other hours. Increase my workload. Probably stress myself out from trying to fit more things in.
You can write like you’re running out of time, but that’ll probably take all your time. And if that’s the life you want? Fantastic. Go for it. If you derive the most pleasure from immersing yourself so deeply in a story that you have to be forced to come up for air, and that works for you, that is brilliant.
It’s not right for me. A weird thing to admit, since I’ve talked before about how lost my brain gets in things sometimes. But more and more I’m learning that I also need space. I need to be doing lots of different things that use lots of different skills. Writing is the thing I love doing most; it’s probably the thing I’m best at. But I’m a lot more than just that one thing. So are you.
At this pace, I’m going to produce a little less than one book a year. I’m okay with that. I’m still producing a ton of content for you, and getting that short-term reward of putting things out there instantly. I’m still publishing at a rate that I’m happy with.
And most importantly, I’m living my life with the balance I want in it. That’s how you really write like you’re running out of time – in a way that allows you to do all of the things you want to at once.