“Successful writers write NO MATTER WHAT.” — Kelly Stone
I’m not a self-schedule-oriented person. It’s far easier to stick to someone else’s schedule than your own. Self-discipline can be HARD.
So when James told me that I need a daily writing schedule, I balked.
I don’t want a schedule! I can’t guarantee where I’ll be at any single time. What if something else comes up? What if my child is home sick from school one day and I can’t write at my scheduled time? What if I’m not inspired at that time but get inspired later on?
Every excuse imaginable went through my head. I set a schedule anyways, just to be dutiful – I kept it for two days and then I quit.
James can’t be right all the time. What works for her may not work for me. Everyone does things differently, right? I need to find my own writing path…
Three months later, how much had I written? Well, let’s not talk specifics, but it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d wanted to achieve.
In fact, I was really embarrassed — even though no one knew about this but me.
I’m a writer, and a writer WRITES, but it’s pretty hard to believe you’re a writer when you lack proof to reinforce the claim.
Then James – damn her – sends me a book out of the blue. Ironically, it was Time to Write by Kelly Stone.
Sigh. FINE, I thought. I’ll read it.
Stone’s book discusses why writers need a writing schedule. They need to create a habit, and creating a writing habit means writing on a regular basis. By setting a particular time of day aside to write, you’ll practice your craft and reaffirm your belief that you are, indeed, a writer.
You reaffirm your commitment to yourself.
Stone says, “A schedule gives [writing] the same importance as your other must-do activities. Just like grocery shopping, picking up the kids from daycare, and putting in hours at your job, writing will become part of the natural flow of your day when you schedule it.”
My problem was that I wanted to wait for the “right time” to write. I waited to be inspired or to have “enough” time, a nebulous amount that changes depending on the situation. Occasionally I’d discover time to write, here or there, but instead of writing, I’d find myself staring at a blank page feeling like I’d forgotten the entire English language.
“Waiting for the right time to simply appear in your busy day is a guaranteed way to ensure that you won’t write because something else will come up… Suddenly it’ll be time for bed and you discover that another day has passed and you haven’t written.”
You said it, Kelly. Many nights I’d go to bed without having written at all that day, and I’d mentally beat myself up about it.
Fortunately, a little further in the book, Stone talks about how different authors use different types of writing schedules. She interviewed over 100 professional writers, from fiction authors to freelance journalists, to reveal their methods of incorporating writing into their lives.
What she discovered was that writers tend to choose one of these methods – which one fits you?
- The Early-Morning Writer: Rick Mofina, a crime novelist, considers writing in the early mornings a key to his success because his creativity was in top form. Waking up and writing before work was easier than writing after work, when he felt exhausted from his day.
- The After-Hours Writer: Carmen Green, author of Flirt and What a Fool Believes, begins after her job and childcare duties are over. She writes from about 7:30 to 10:00 pm and then gets ready for bed.
- The Office Writer: Novelist Steve Berry takes his laptop to work with him and writes before his co-workers arrive for the day. He also writes during scheduled lunch breaks and stays late at the office to write after his co-workers leave.
- The Blitz Writer: C. J. Lyons, author of Arrivals, says, “As a pediatrician I worked part-time, which was forty hours a week. Time to write was obviously scarce, so I would let my stories ‘ferment’ until I had a day off, and then the words would just flow.”
- The Mini-blocks Writer: Kathryn Lance, author of over fifty fiction and nonfiction books, balances her writing time and personal life in mini-blocks. “I used to write a minimum of one fiction sentence every night before going to bed. Or actually, before going to sleep — I did this in bed. I recommend that to people who just can’t find time to do their fiction.”
- The Commuting Writer: Rick Mofina also uses his commute time to help achieve his early morning writing goals, which is perfect for writers who use public transportation to and from work. “I use the commute to make notes, usually critical notes to myself, so I know where I’m going.”
- The Any-Opportunity or Combo Writer: Physician and bestselling novelist Tess Gerritsen wrote whenever she wasn’t on duty. “I would write on my lunch breaks, as well as after I got home. I’d write whenever I could — weekends, early mornings, and late nights. After I got home, as soon as the kids were put down for the night, I’d start writing.”
There were all types of writers! Inspired and repeating my new mantra (“successful writers write no matter what!”), I set up a schedule. A proper schedule I wanted to stick to. Finally.
Yeah, yeah, I know — James was right. Just don’t tell her I said that.
As a bonus, Time to Write also addresses problems that different writers have in sticking to their writing schedules, providing solutions and practical advice that work.
From needing more motivation to actually sitting down at your scheduled time to the issues that prevent you from being able to write in the first place (writer’s block) to gleaning inspiration from your daily life, she’s got it all covered, with backup: published authors who’ve lived through that exact situation attest to each solution. That way, you know that it works – and if it worked for someone else, it can work for you.
Now that I have a proper schedule, with clear goals, I accomplish far more each day than ever before. I’m not leaving my writing up to chance.
And my writing schedule is set in stone. I don’t schedule anything in that time because I need to build respect for my writing.
I’ve made my writing goals fairly easy to achieve, of course. That way, I can reach my daily goal quickly and then either stop or continue a little further. But I fully intend to change up my goals and make them more challenging as I build my writing habit and become comfortable with it.
One other thing James keeps reminding me — and yes, she’s definitely right on this one — is that my writing time needs to end on a positive note. If I’m exhausted at the end of my writing time stopped writing because I was stuck or ended thinking, “Well, that wasn’t great,” then at some point writing will become a chore. I’m simply not going to want to do it anymore.
By ending on an upbeat note, I feel good about what I’ve just achieved and look forward to writing the next day. It makes it a breeze.
What about you? Do you have a writing schedule you follow on a daily basis? How do you stay motivated to write consistently every day? What advice worked best for you when you started to incorporate writing into your daily schedule?
Share your thoughts – we writers need all the help we can get!