Writing on a schedule can cure a variety of writerly problems. Most writers must navigate the choppy waters of family life or a day job and still find time to keep making writing progress. That’s where a writing schedule comes in handy.
Writing Tip for Today: Believe it or not, injecting a little discipline into your writing routine and goals won’t stifle your creativity. Here are some tips for devising and maintaining a writing schedule:
Writing as Occupation
You wouldn’t think of ditching out your job just because you don’t “feel it” that day. Start thinking of your writing as a job too. The more you convince yourself that writing is only a hobby or something you do when everything else is done, the more you’ll be liable to procrastinate or ignore your writing goals.
As a writer, you have these requirements: to learn as much as you can about craft and apply that knowledge to your work; to set some writing goals and to show up. That showing up part can be the hardest, especially when life calls.
But if you treat your writing as a real job (not, as your relatives may think, a silly waste of time), you owe it more attention than hit or miss. As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art, anything that keeps you away from writing is resistance. And resistance can take many forms: I’m too busy; I can’t keep interruptions at bay; I have writer’s block; the sun’s out; the sun’s not out—etc. Most writers have the same problems at one time or another. The key to writing through the storms of life is to face resistance head on. Show Up. Write. No excuses. And a set schedule can help you keep your promise to yourself.
Set a Routine
I tell writing students that setting a writing schedule is a little like going on a weight loss or fitness binge. If you set outrageous goals—I’ll lose fifty pounds in a month—you probably aren’t going to stick with the plan. Set a writing schedule that you can keep, whether it’s a five-hour session twice a week when the kids are gone, or twenty minutes every morning before work. Try to set a schedule that gives you at least three hours total per week.
Work with your own best self—if you’re a night owl, write at night. If you’re a morning person, dive into writing in the early part of the day. Try to write in the environment where you are most productive. This might mean locking yourself in a bathroom or going to Starbucks.
You may write more freely with instrumental music in the background or you may need total silence. Work at providing yourself with a stable time and place to do your writing—remember, it’s your job.
Vary the Projects
As much as it can help to set a standard writing schedule, varying what you write in any one session can keep your creativity humming and banish writer’s block. My favorite writing schedule has several day/times blocked out for long or booklength projects, but I also set aside a session per week to write shorter pieces (essays, short stories, fillers, even poems) and another day is for marketing/promotion/submitting/querying.
I find that splitting these different tasks into designated writing sessions helps me focus and also helps me see real progress in my writing goals. If I know that Friday is when I’ll catch up on social media and/or research potential agents, contests or periodicals, I will be less likely on Monday to feel the pressure that I’m not doing everything to further my writing.
Even more importantly, by varying my writing sessions, I may be able to publish shorter essays, articles or stories while I’m still drafting that novel or nonfiction book. Those short pieces give me a break from the long forms and help build my platform with increased author visibility. Set your own custom writing schedule and watch your productivity soar.