Scott Greenfield has deservedly earned a reputation as a straight-shooter. He calls ‘em as he sees ‘em and is never compelled to add varnish. When he sees lies or exaggerations by other bloggers, he is quick to call them on the carpet.
But even Greenfield challenged credulity when he wrote in a recent post about blogging that he averages about 10 minutes a post. Responding to complaints that he “must spend every waking moment writing to churn out the amount of content” on his blog, he said:
I’ve explained numerous times that it just doesn’t take me very long to do this. I average about ten minutes a post, often interrupted with important things like refilling my coffee mug, talking to my kids or listening to Dr. SJ’s instructions on what I shouldn’t screw up that day. I get back to writing when I can. Writing Simple Justice never interferes with life or practice.
This intrigued me because one of the most frequent questions I get from lawyers interested in starting a blog is, “How much time does it take?” I consider myself a fairly fast writer and a pretty decent typist. These are skills I learned working at newspapers. But rarely do I churn out a post in 10 minutes.
Consider just the mechanics. According to Wikipedia, the average typist transcribes at the rate of 33 words per minute and composes at just 19 words per minute. Professional typists average 30 to 40 words per minute. A few typists do 80 to 95 words a minute. A rare breed of advanced typist can do 120 words per minute. Again, those are transcription rates, not composition rates.
Greenfield’s post about blogging came in at 1,647 words. If it took him 10 minutes, then he was composing and typing at a rate of 160 words per minute. If the average composition rate is 19 words per minute, the average person would take roughly 1.5 hours to compose a piece of the same length.
Another recent Greenfield post, about blogger Mirriam Seddiq, was even longer, with a length of 1,867 words. Again, if this took anywhere near 10 minutes, then Greenfield is both composing and typing at twice the speed of the fastest typists. And of course he also had to factor in the time to read and link to the various other bloggers he mentions in his post. Presumably, he also stopped along the way to refill his coffee and talk to his kids.
I say all this not to pick on Greenfield. Whether he takes 10 minutes or 20 minutes or a half an hour, he is indisputably prolific and able to produce not just words but ideas and insights — a quality too often lacking in bloggers. I say all this so that other lawyers who aspire to blog will not allow this wunderkind to give them a false impression of what it takes.
Many bloggers will tell you that writing is only the half of it. Equally, if not more, time consuming is finding something to write about. For many who blog, the routine involves some combination of these steps:
- Review your usual news sources, blogs, RSS feeds, court opinions or whatever.
- Read some or all of the items that strike your fancy.
- Choose an item or theme to write about.
- Mentally compose your thoughts.
- Put those thoughts in writing.
- Give it a second read to see if it makes any sense.
- Hit that “publish” button.
That takes time. Blogging is not just writing. It is reading and digesting and selecting and composing and editing. Even a brief post rarely consumes just 10 minutes, factoring in all these elements. I encourage lawyers to blog. But don’t be discouraged if you’re not a blogging superhero.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this post took me 45 minutes to write.