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The Math Behind The Ten Hour Rule

How serious are you about becoming a writer? This changed my life.

Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

When I saw Michael Simmons article I simultaneously had two reactions. First, I said, “Yes, this is an invaluable lesson.” Simmons takes it much deeper than just making a commitment to being a lifelong learner. And it’s a good read that offers real value if you apply it to your life, especially if you’re early in your career.

I will add here that office politics may thwart you along the way, and there are no “sure things” in life. What I will tell you is that if backstabbers and political shenanigans trip you up, you will personally be of more value having committed to lifelong learning than to have chosen to play the office politics game of chutes and ladders. Furthermore, you will be more respected.

That was my first thought when I saw this article. The second was this: “Cool, what a great title.” That is, what a great way to package a lesson that I’ve shared many times over the years and want to share here. It was at my first writer’s conference back in the early 80’s and Dennis Hensley was teaching a class on article writing, I believe. This is the Ten Hour Rule (he didn’t call it that, but I will keep alignment with the title, just because.)

His target audience: people who worked full time seeking a path out of their humdrum daily lives into a full-time writing career. I did this and the Fates smiled, enabling me to land a writing job in 1996, which broadened into a career in advertising, hundred of published articles a number of books.

It goes like this. Make a decision to write ten hours a week. Negotiate with your spouse, eliminate a hobby or television (that was easy) or sleep ot whatever. The math goes like this.

10 Hours x 4 weeks equals a 40-Hour Work Week.

4 months is equivalent to One Month of Full-Time Employment as a writer. (Four 40-hour work weeks)

At the end of one year you will have worked the equivalent of
One full quarter (three months) of Full-Time writing.


The kicker is this. If you can’t get published after working the equivalent of three months full time writing…

Historically writers have carved out their writing time from different parts of the day and you will have to work out what is best for you. In the beginning we didn’t have kids so it was easy. I wrote every night till late. When the kids came along, we negotiated a plan that went like this: Monday my wife took our two children to the in-laws and went shopping. That bought me three hours. Tuesday through Thursday I wrote for an hour after the kids went to bed. That was six hours under my belt. Friday was date night, and I had a weekend to find four hours, usually two each day.

I know people who found there hours from two to four in the morning five nights a week. Others who woke at four or five a.m. and wrote till they had to go to the office. My rule of thumb is, “The right way is the way that works.”

If you have been productive and found a better way for you, run with it. If you’ve struggled to find time to write, hopefully there something here that can get you unblocked. Good luck!