This didn’t occur to me one day; it sort of settled on me over my three-decade-long writing career—and over the 16 years I’ve been at it here at Writing Boots:
For every 60 units of time that I spend writing something, you should enjoy one unit of time reading it.
For instance, if I spend 60 minutes writing a thing, a reader should be pleased to spend one minute reading it.
Most basically: If an idea amuses an experienced writer like me sufficiently that I can happily spend 60 minutes writing it, it should at least amuse you for the 60 seconds takes you to read it.
And if I spend two hours writing a piece, that should happily hold you for two minutes of reading it. And so on.
The concept even seems to hold roughly true for longer pieces. If it takes me five years to write a book—260 weeks divided by 60—you should be able to savor that book for the roughly four weeks it’s probably going to spend on your nightstand.
This piece? About a half hour from inception to writing, to posting and editing. And half a minute for you to read?
(I don’t know if my math holds up here. The point is: I write a lot, you read a little. It’s why this blog is called “Writing Boots.” Because I think of writing as a blue-collar job, not too unlike an early job I had, that involved a lot of hole-digging. If I dig a hole for a couple hours and you walk by, you’ll go, “Oh. A hole.” If it’s neatly dug, you might appreciate that. But if I dig for a couple of days, you might be inspired to peer over the edge to see what layers of earth I’ve uncovered, what underground construction I might have revealed, what artifacts I might have found. And if I dig for years—lots of little holes in one area, amounting to a big excavation project, for regular gawkers, at least—I can allow myself to hope we’ve discovered something under all this ground. I can, and I must.)