Novel-writing is very energy-efficient


Still … by the end of that novel the squirrel is going to be 600m up in the air, and probably very confused. So clearly it’d totally be worth it.

I know the XKCD post is strictly about keyboard energy, but still, this is a poor estimate for how much energy writing a novel actually takes. Based on cursory googling, a human brain consumes something on the order of 10W-- vastly more power than you need to type with, and more than enough to power a MacBook Air for light tasks like word processing.

Obviously not all of that energy is used for thinking. According to… erm…, thinking accounts for 20-50 calories per day, or between 1 and 2.5W. If you’re, say, Thomas Pynchon, let’s say it takes 3 years to write a novel and it takes up 1/10 of your waking thoughts over that period. Call it 2W of power on the assumption that this is high-end thinking; 1/10 of 3 years is 3.2 megaseconds, so in total you’ve expended 6.3MJ of energy to write that novel. That’s about the energy released by 1.3kg (46oz) of TNT.


It should also be considered in terms of lost opportunity costs arising from the time that was used. In the time needed to write a novel, someone could build a small house.

… or destroy the Aztec Empire. Forever.

“With a lot of rewrites, you might expend several kilojoules—but you’d
need to rewrite every word 10 times to match the energy stored in a
single AA battery.”

So what you’re telling me is that my last two NaNoWriMo attempts could have at least filled four AA batteries, then. Cool.

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