Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule

Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule

“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!

Post by Kari

Kari is a full-time content manager, editor and in-house blogger at Men With Pens. In her spare time, she writes fiction and is working on her first novel.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Hi Kari!

    Don’t I know you from somewhere? Facebook, I think, from a couple of years ago (though I haven’t been keeping up with anyone in awhile and haven’t been keeping up with things here, either! I only recently re-subscribed after losing track of whatever email I originally subscribed with awhile back).

    Just want to say I agree about scheduling. I’ve been so busy pumping out all sorts of non-fiction that’s blog related or work related, and fiction is in the dust other than a few NanosWrimos. I really need to get back on track with all those novels sitting in various folders on a few different computers. Or in my head. And the only way is if I set aside steady time for them.

    I don’t think it’s a shabby excuse right now to say I’ve been too super busy (hey, bills have to get paid and I can only do so much–I only *want* to do so much at one time, so it’s a choice), but a few things are getting cut back, and I won’t have any excuse. I don’t want excuses. Thanks for the reminder about scheduling time because I know it’s important. It’s not about feeling like doing something; it’s making sure we work on our goals.

    Also have to check out that book–thanks!

    • Hi Leah! I’ve seen you all over the place, Facebook included 🙂

      Scheduling works for any type of writing, both fiction and nonfiction, but it’s easier to write whatever is going to bring in more immediate income for obvious reasons 😉

      Here’s to wishing you well on adding your fiction writing to your schedule!

      • Hello, Kari
        First of thanks for your great resource. Finally got a direction on your detailed article About my Writing Schedule.
        Keep it up.
        Thanks again.

  2. James is right. You need a schedule. A schedule will help you form a routine. A routine will lead to a habit that will be hard to break.
    Several years ago, during my university days, like many students, I’d sleep in. But half way through my post secondary education I felt like the day was wasted when I got up around 10 or 11am. So I decided to slowly get up 15 minutes earlier each day. It took me about 3 weeks to reach 5am wake up call. But nearly 10 years later it’s a habit that is hard to break.
    But I realize that waking up earlier has a lot of underlying biological processes, so it may not directly apply to your main points. But, my early wake up call made me feel extra motivated and extremely productive. While I was developing the new schedule I also forced myself to go to the gym about 30-45 minutes upon waking up. And this habit is still with me to this day. If I skip a workout, then for the rest of the day I feel like something is missing.

    • Andrei,

      I think you’re absolutely right, but I don’t think there really is much difference in training yourself to wake up early and to follow an early morning exercise routine and sitting down to a schedule in order to write. If you condition yourself to wake up at 5am or if you condition yourself to write at a specific time in the day, it still creates that habit in your mind. I’ve known writers who have had their schedule interrupted and then their entire day they feel completely out of sorts.

      Great comparison!

  3. I so needed this article, I want to do so much writing and I do so much writing, but never the writing I really want to do. Like Leah I get caught up in the writing I have to do.

    That’s because I am a ‘demand’ writer. I write to deadlines, like a journalist. I have a blog posting schedule, I have deadlines for scripts or copy, but not for writing the books I am in the middle of.

    Now I have to take time out to create my schedule, but I don’t have time……..

    Thank you for the kick in the pants.

    • Graham,

      You’re welcome!

      If you’re a deadline writer, set your own deadlines for the writing you want to accomplish. Give yourself rewards for reaching them, things that you wouldn’t necessarily just “go out and do.”

      Take care and find that time to create yourself a schedule. Doesn’t have to be perfect — just has to be something you’re willing to commit to! 🙂

  4. This is a good article, but it seems that the idea of a “schedule” can be misleading.

    Like C. J. Lyons who waits until he has an entire day off to write as much as he can. Or Tess Gerritsen who writes whenever she can.

    I think people misuse the term “schedule” and insist that everyone write at the same time every day of the week, or the exact same time on the exact same day of every week. That’s just not possible for many people.

    I think making regular appointments with yourself and keeping them is more important than a strict “schedule” that’s the same day after day and week after week.

    I also agree with ending on a positive note. One writer I’ve heard about ends at the point where he knows exactly what’s going to happen next. That way the next time he sits down to write he can just get right back into it.

    • Sarah,

      You’re absolutely right — a schedule doesn’t necessarily mean “every day at 2:00pm sharp.” Unless you want it to. 🙂

      C.J. Lyons created her own schedule around her work as a pediatric ER doctor. It’s still a schedule though. Just maybe not the one you or I would choose. Tess has a different kind of schedule and as long as it works for her, that’s great 🙂

      It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a “schedule.” They have set aside times to write — and then they write. It also doesn’t matter whether anyone else thinks it’s a schedule or not. As long as you have regular times to sit down and write, you’re going to make progress on your work.

      I tried to point that out in the article. Thanks for making me clarify that. And James’ schedule? James writes in the mornings 🙂

  5. Following your writing schedule will get you one VERY IMPORTANT THING…

    – good habits –

    The logic here is very simple…

    Good habits = Good results while Bad Habits = Bad results

    That being said, if you want to be successful, just form good habits.

    Key tip: Once you acquire good habits, you’ll find that failing becomes REEAAALLLLYYYY difficult to do.

  6. Awww Keri, you made me cry my eyeballs out!

    I bought the e-book from James. I read all her mail. I want to write, all day every day. I know I’m a good writer. I know I have what it takes to earn a proper living being a freelance online writer. But what have I come up with in the past 6 months? Right, about as much as you had in three months. I’m scared shitless and don’t know where to start, so what better place to seek for help and advice than menwithpens?

    Turns out, I need a schedule.

    Thanks Keri, thankyouthankyouthankyou. I want to give you a million floppy wet kisses but that might be awkward. So I’ll just say thank you times a million because you just made my huge problem seem so small. I can do a schedule, no problem. Who would have thought it would be THAT easy?

  7. This is me. So me. I know I need a schedule. Sometimes I’ll even stick with one for a while. I have a tracker and set myself goals that sometimes do and sometimes don’t keep me motivated. But it feels like more often than not, I am climbing into bed at the end of the day saying “Damn, I didn’t get any writing done today.” But somehow I manage to have time for my DVR…

  8. Hi Kari,

    I have, for the last couple months, arranged my day to write for an hour every morning. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog post or anything else that needs writing, I stick to an hour every morning.

    I start my day off with a very exact checklist type schedule. My wife leaves in the morning with the kids and then I do everything from there on based on a very simple checklist. I’ve found this the best way to make sure I hit all the important little things – and know once I start writing I’m not going to think “Oh, I should have…”.


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