Thursday, February 1, 2024

2014 - February - Wise Words, Part 1 — WRITE

Part 1 - WRITE 

On becoming a writer there are numerous sites and blogs on the Internet touting anywhere from seven to twenty-five "easy steps" to becoming a writer. In looking over such sites, three items consistently appeared on the lists: Write, Read, and Join a Writing Group.

Rather than tackle all three in one blog post, I'm doing one aspect a month. This month being— Write.

What writer hasn't been told to write every day? After all it is said that writing is like a muscle, if you don't use it you lose it. But— 

Look at the reality of writing every day. That logically means writing 365 days a year. No weekends off. No sick days. No life emergencies. No holidays or special events to celebrate or take time off for. No kids, pets, spouses, relatives, or friends to deal with. Of course eating, sleeping, visits to the bathroom, and other necessities are permitted for health reasons.

Today's writing methods include AI, dictating stories verbally, and cell phone thumbing. I'm not addressing those methods but starting with writing in a journal or diary every day. Be it written with a pen, a pencil, or with a keyboard, it's daily writing.

Unfortunately, writing fiction or nonfiction as well as writing literary or genre works changes the writing pace. Even the speedy social media blogger is affected by how many worthwhile words that can be generated at a keyboard in an hour or a day.

Notice I said worthwhile words.

The first attempt by writers is the first draft. That initial writing effort is to get the ideas down. But at what speed?

If the speed is by hand, with pen or pencil, the average handwritten speed for an adult is eight words a minute. However, the speed range is actually sited as being between five and twenty words a minute. If you learn or know Greg Shorthand (or some other speed writing method), 60-80 words a minute is average with the Greg record being 350 words a minute.

As to the typewriter? Well, its day has come and, unfortunately, gone, but we still have the keyboard. The average typing speed is considered 40 words per minute. If you want a secretarial job, the minimum is still 60 words a minute. An advanced typist needs 80 words a minute.

In the age of computers and their keyboards, the base line is still 40-60 words a minute but more desirable is 60-90 words a minute. If someone has an average of 120 words a minute, they are in the top 1% of typists in the world. And then there is the typing speed record of 300 words per minute.

But set those statistics aside. Look at the practical writing speeds and the possible word count for an hour:

Average handwritten speed: 8 words per minute = 480 words an hour

Average typing speed: 40 words per minute = 2400 words an hour

Average typing speed: 60 wpm = 3600 words per hour

Average typing speed: 80 wpm = 4,800 words an hour

Here's the thing, the experts say the average to strive for is 100 words an hour.

Now, the reality check: who can sustain such average speeds consistently, let alone for a solid hour? I sure can't and I've been typing since I was sixteen years old (and worked for decades as a secretary).

Take a deep breath. Don't think you have to write every single day at high speeds. If writing is important to you —  and as Sol Stein says if you are a writer who cannot not write —  then cultivate a habit of writing that suits you. Achieve that by experimenting with different methods of producing work until you find one that generates completed works in a timely fashion. 

Once you find your groove, write and keep writing your way.

Next Month  Part 2, READ

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