When people want to find out how fast they write, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, they usually resort to typing speed tests like this one for a rough estimate:
You then take a look at your result, for example, 70 words per minute, multiply it by 60 and wow – it turns out that you write 4200 words every hour! This means that you can churn out a word count equivalent to The Great Gatsby in a little over 11 hours.
In reality, we all know that, unfortunately, things don’t actually work this way.
(By the way, the average typing speed is 40 words per minute.)
In reality, you probably write anywhere around 200-2000 words per hour. It all depends on your individual writing speed, the type of content you’re creating and the complexity of research that you have to carry out.
Yes, there’s a huge difference between typing speed and writing speed. First, we’re going to take a look at all the factors that make your writing speed slower than your typing speed and then suggest ways how to measure your writing speed instead.
Why is Writing Speed Slower Than Typing Speed?
Typing speed is mechanical. Most of us are very good at it, through years and decades of automation and everyday use. Think about it: you don’t even have to look at your keyboard while typing, and you can airtype exact locations of letters without having an actual keyboard in front of you!
This portrays that typing is a process automated to a very high degree, just like driving or walking.
Now, creative and expressive writing is anything but mechanical. It involves a mechanical aspect (typing), but this is only a partial facet of the overall process of writing.
Here are other ingredients that are important for the process of writing and make it much slower than typing:
Naturally, when you’re writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, you’re not just typing random words without meaning and focusing solely on typing.
Depending on your mode of creating ideas, you might be one of those writers who wait for ideas to come after they start writing, or those who spend a lot of time brainstorming before actually sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper.
In any case, actually coming up with what you’re about to write doesn’t happen at the same speed as you can type.
A great solution for this is to use voice typing tools, that will allow you to note your ideas as you tell them aloud and then edit them in a textual form afterwards.
Depending on the complexity of your writing task and how well-versed you are in what you want to write, you will have to do even a little bit of research.
This is one of the most time-consuming facets of the writing process. When you’re writing on a topic of which you know basically nothing about, a simple 300-word task can turn into days of work.
Therefore, it’s definitely worth it to find ways to optimize the research process if you want to write at top speed.
Editing your text as you write is one of the symptoms of perfectionism and it’s also a recipe for slow writing, indecisiveness and dissatisfaction with your final result.
In most cases, you should aim to do the editing after you’ve done all the work. This is proven to drastically reduce your total writing and editing time.
When you’re writing a structured text that’s supposed to have flow and make logical sense, you will sometimes come across vocabulary gaps (moments when you can’t think of a word), which will slow down your writing and block your flow.
Take a look at this article to find helpful resources for vocabulary building.
How Can You Measure Your Real Writing Speed?
So, now it’s clear why you can’t rely on your typing speed score to find out how fast you actually write: there are many variables at play and your writing speed will range from one piece of text to another.
Therefore, the best thing you can do to get the closest result to reality (i.e. your average writing speed for an average-difficulty text) is to do the measuring yourself.
A problem with this approach is the so-called Hawthorne effect: you will likely write differently than if you would in an environment where you’re not measured. To tackle this bias, measure yourself for a prolonged period of time where the situation is basically unnoticeable. Ignore the first couple of results that you get, when you were dramatically aware that you are measuring your writing speed.
Then, grab a writing task that you would normally work on. Make sure that the amount of research is at an average level, as well as the length of the text and your familiarity with the topic.
Then, start a timer and begin writing! Here are some free tools that you can use to measure your writing time precisely:
Of course, you can use a regular watch, clock or a stopwatch (be careful, a stopwatch can be quite pressure-inducing and increase the Hawthorne effect).
Also, you should measure the total time that it took you to write, for example, 1,000 words. Measuring time in increments or 100 word milestones may trick you: maybe you’re super fast with introductions and can write the first 100 words in 3 minutes, while explanatory paragraphs in the body take you 20 minutes to produce 100 words.
After you have done this for a couple of times (to get an accurate sample and avoid the Hawthorne bias), you now know your average writing time!
The figure you get at the end might surprise you. Most writers have the tendency to believe that they write slower than they actually do.
Now, you can use this information to start tracking your progress in your Speed Writing course.