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.

  • I am a fairly quick blogger and it takes me longer than 10 minutes. I do believe Mr. Greenfield, though, when he says it doesn’t take him long at all. He clearly spent a lot longer writing the post about me, though, and ten minutes might be more a figure of speech than anything else.

    There are days when the longer posts will take me an hour or two and, as a starting over solo, that is a lot of time to take out of a day. Bu, I think its time well spent since it gives me a much needed break from the starting over solo business.

  • Bob, I often find my best material for a blog post comes from a comment I left on someone else’s blog. I write a comment, then find it might actually be material that can be lengthened, then turned in to a post that might be good to share with others.

  • Scott only lies about his age, his marital status, and his actual number of children. As a blogger he is very very fast–mainly (and seriously) because he types both well and as fast as he thinks; it’s all true.

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  • Thanks for this.

    My average blog article seems to take a couple hours. I’ve had some run “several” hours over two days if I link in a lot. Next to Scott — and even some like Norm Pattis — I have, for a long time, felt like I was slow. That led me to feel I just wasn’t up to the job, which makes blogging even harder.

    After reading this, I don’t feel as badly about my performance. 😉

  • Surprisingly it takes time to write less. Anyone can publish an unedited stream of consciousness, but it takes time to collect one’s thoughts, commit them to paper in a concise fashion, and edit the result once or twice. I tend to write thought pieces rather than quick snippets, and typically I need at least 2 hours to go from idea to completed first draft, with another 30 minutes for review and editing. All prospective bloggers should be warned that (a) writing good posts always takes longer than expected, and (b) the greater challenge is finding fresh topics you feel strongly enough to write about. So consider the time commitment before starting, because a half-hearted blog effort can send the wrong message.

  • I only wish it took 10 minutes to write a blogpost! I concur with Bob’s list of the steps you have to go through for each post. I would add that if your blogging is work-related, and carries the imprimatur of your employer, care must be taken to write well, watch your grammar and spelling, and avoid controversial topics. And then there’s the pressure, if you’re a solo blogger, for fresh material every day. Nevertheless, I really enjoy blogging and reading other blogs.

  • Scott Greenfield’s time estimate of 10 minutes to write a blog post is likely his average for most posts. The substantive posts exceeding 1500 words you rely upon are examples of invalid sampling. Whether it takes him 10 minutes or it takes you 45 minutes is irrelevant. Form ever follows function. I type at 90 words per minute and I think ten times as fast as I type, but that does not extrapolate to anything close to Scott’s blawging quality or quantity. Some posts take a short time, others require more reflection. Ultimately, what you write is more important than how long it takes you to write it.

  • Time is not a measure of quality. I did not mean to suggest otherwise. For some lawyers, however, it is a key factor in whether they blog and how often they blog.

  • shg

    Ah, the doubters. In fairness, I do not include in my 10 minutes (which, by the way, is an average, not a limit) the time used for getting another cup of coffee, speaking to my kids, apologizing to my wife, scratching or massaging body parts as needed, or wondering how George Stephanopoulis found a wife.

    On the other hand, the word count is similarly misleading as it’s just cut and paste, though I get credit for the additional words. I’ll take the cheap credit, whether deserved or not, since it’s no skin off Bob’s nose.

    Timothy Corcoran made a very important point, often made by my muse, Dan Hull, as well, and one that concerns me greatly. It takes more time to write less. I’ve no doubt that if I put in more time, I could tighten up my posts significantly. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to have reduced me to a blawgospheric laughingstock.

    Go figure.

  • shg

    Between starting my comment and finishing, I dealt with the pool guys and the propane guys, the former being annoying and the latter being expensive and annoying, and left out the part about where the quotes in my post are cut and paste. Disruptions can be a bummer.

    That said, like Nino, I type quite fast. I think fast, but not as fast as Nino, as evidenced by his use of much more sophisticated words.

    As for what this means for other lawyers, I dunno. If they want to write, they will put in as much time as they need. After all, how long must a person’s legs be?

    (Answer: Long enough to reach the ground.)

  • Bob, Scott, Nancy and Tim, all fantastic observations and mostly true for me. If I repurpose my own musings at someone else’s smart observation and care to make it concise and readable, I’m putting in 30-45 minutes a post. Something original may take slightly longer. The research and linking takes about 20% of that time. As a result, my frequency of posting is not at the level to which I aspire. The attorneys who I support in their blogging take an average of 90 minutes per post. I consider that acceptable as a business and reputational investment on a weekly basis.

  • shg

    If you would like to support me in my blogging, I can give you an address to send the check. I’ll be waiting by the mailbox.

  • It would take me ten minutes to compose a blog entry that is recycled content – say, a redux of an article I wrote, a quick-and-dirty review, or something for which I am already performing a great deal of research.

    From start to finish for a truly original post, from having the idea, performing research, gathering material, organizing thoughts and structure, actually writing, digging up and properly citing links, editing for overall form and structure, and then doing another copy edit, I’d say it can take up to and sometimes more than a week.

  • Typing speed can be deceiving; a fair number of my posts were dictated first and then either typed by my assistant or transcribed by my voice recognition software.

    I’ve had a couple posts take more more than an hour, though I can’t think any that took more than two, and in those circumstances it’s really more writer’s block than substantive work.

    I can crank out posts in 5-15 minutes; posts where I’m just jabbering about some recent news as far easier than posts where I’m commenting on substantive law, which generally requires 15-30 minutes.

    I don’t think bloggers should fret about the time, they should fret about the content. If your niche is, say, outrage on tap, then you can get into a habit of cranking stuff out. If your niche involves substantive analysis, it can take far, far longer.

    And, of course, shorter and tighter prose takes far longer to write.

  • It used to take me about 45 minutes for a half decent factual post, more like an hour if there were any case citations (to proof read). Thus I no longer write a legal blog.

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  • Hi,

    My first time around.

    Though the post is an old one it is still relevant. Personally it does take me about 2 hours to write a blog post specially if I have to put in references and do some research.

    I did notice that no one talked about pictures that have to be inserted into posts. That takes a lot of time of mine. First find a picture and then finding out whether I can use it takes a lot of time. I wonder if someone had tips on how to make this simpler. I have seen some bloggers (mostly who are famous) using photos or images from Getty or shutterstock with a link back to the respective websites. Is this something which any blogger can do or explicit permission has to be taken before using the images.

    The post is a good one and specially helpful to bloggers like me who are often puzzled by bloggers who post 4-6 blog posts a day.

  • Haha. I love your technical analysis Robert. The problem with saying something takes 10 minutes if it takes longer, is that it makes other people question their own methods. I think the “how long does it take” question is only valuable to make you feel less alone on how long it actually takes to write. There are far too many variables to come up with the ‘best” answer, aren’t there? For example, I do mostly interviews or deeper data analysis… so my preparation work can take hours alone. I actually just created a poll asking others the same “how long does it take you to blog” question and you can see the results here: Many people noted that the entire process takes them from 1-5 hours (which includes everything from research, writing, editing, finding pictures, posting to social networks etc).