How Long Does It Take?


This is quite the question … how long does it take to do …. what? Write a novel? Finish an essay? Make money? Feel fulfilled?

I know … no one expects a philosophical discussion from a simple question, but words are important to me, and I hate assuming I know what someone “means” when I really am simply imposing my own preconceived notions onto their questions. Anyway …

When it comes to writing — to “being a writer” — I think time is irrelevant. I mean, each project, each assignment, in and of itself defines the time required of it. Let me tell you a story …

When I was in high school, I wrote a lot. I did my regular school stuff, but was also heavily into poetry, short stories, etc. I entered contests. I wrote and compiled three volumes of poetry. I did independent studies on writers and styles and was a voracious reader. I had determined to write the “Great American Novel” of my time by the time I was twenty-five. That project still lies dormant under the years of other projects, and simply living life and accomplishing all the things I feel the need to do to be successful. How long does it take? In my life, that novel has taken more than 35 years, and it sure isn’t going to be published in 2014.

Now, in the meantime, I have done hundreds of other writing projects. I do a lot of pro bono stuff for organizations, churches, etc. I’ve been involved in a few on-line projects. I’ve written numerous “beginnings” of things that may or may not be birthed anytime soon. I’ve written my Mom’s eulogy. I’ve helped write my father-in-law’s death announcement. I’ve written recommendation for tens of students going into college, getting their first job, applying for scholarships. How long does that take? Apparently the first half of a lifetime, but usually not more than a few hours per each project (which figures out to the first half of a lifetime, with my mathematical skills).

When I think about “how long does it take,” I balk at the quantization of time when it comes to writing. I believe you either “are” a writer — or you are not. And if you are a writer, you write always. Sometimes, the ideas come so strong to me that I literally have to stop what I’m doing to jot notes. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to even sit at the computer and attempt to finish a simple blogging entry (which the fighting, for me, actually takes longer because I rationalize through ever.little.thing. I can before finally relinquishing and “just sucking it up and doing it.”)

If the question is, “How long does it take to publish a book?” then the question becomes … OK, not much clearer. When you google the question, the first hit is this place: He gives averages for the time it takes to get a finished manuscript to print in the more “traditional” way of publishing.

But we live in an age where anyone can publish, if they want to put the effort and money into it. Some of my friends publish direct to Amazon Others have self published using a variety of sources. Here’s some good strategies from Writer’s Digest:

The bottom line is, devote yourself to writing. Every day. Pick a project of passion, something you can hang with. Learn all you can, write all you can, invest in writing friendships that you can use to help encourage you, and serve as “first line” editors you trust. Set deadlines (projects and contests can help here), and just get it done. Don’t worry about “how much time.” The question for me is always, “Do I want to write?”

This weekend, I had an old friend ask me, “So, what writing have you been working on?”

I had to truthfully say, “Absolutely nothing.” I barely consider myself a writer most days.

He was saddened by that. “You should really be writing.”

I know … I know. It’s like the person who wants to get into shape, and knows all the right answers and strategies, but just can’t pull off the discipline they need. That’s where I am right now.

And if I don’t figure the motivation formula for it all, my answer for the question “How long does it take” will be forever.

One response »

  1. I have the same problem. I have lots of projects started but not finished. Haven’t written on my blog in forever and so many things get in my way-life. Clutter is an issue that I am trying to remove from my life. This is difficult for me because I pick something up and the memory that comes from it stalls the process. I have been pressing through this. I also am not stopping a project to go to another project. No new projects until I am done decluttering. Clutter stops me from creative thought and I have surrounded myself with it. Defense mechanism. Worked as a child but not so much as an adult. I wish you smooth writing time and great ideas. You are now in a busy time and and I thinking of you and your family. Love!

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