Six Steps to a Writing

Six Steps to a Writing Schedule

If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The hard part isn’t knowing what you have to do so much as it’s finding when to do it. Sure, you have to write, but you also have to sweat at your day job, spend time with your family, and keep yourself in clean clothes and dishes. There’s no shortage of things you want to do, either, from catching up with your friends to watching the latest action flick. It can seem impossible to fit writing in amid all your other priorities. What’s a busy writer to do? Don’t give up! Follow these six simple steps, and you’ll find there’s time for writing in every single day.

Step One: Record how you spend your time

Write down everything that takes up your time in an average week. Jot down an estimate of how much time each takes. Include all of it: job, chores, sleep, classes, gym hours, visits, reading time, regular TV shows, outings, internet surfing. No matter how small or trivial, list it. Carry the list with you and note any activities that slipped your mind. Every week has 168 hours. When you’re done, you should have an idea of where all those hours go.

Step Two: Cut what you can

Take a look at your list. Which items are more important or necessary to you than writing? Which ones aren’t? Let’s focus on those. You can find a way to trim time off almost anything. Maybe you’re driving the kids to lessons and clubs non-stop. Arrange car-pools with other parents so someone else can share the driving time. Maybe you watch ten hours of TV a week. Pick the shows you can’t bear to miss and cut out the rest. Maybe you devote an hour or more to cooking each night. Find some meals you can prepare in half that time. Question every activity. If you don’t need it, throw it away. If you’ve got to have it, make do with less. Keep track of how much time you’ll save if you follow through. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it adds up.

Step Three: Combine what you can’t

Some things you just can’t cut, like your job and your weekly phone call to the ‘rents. You can still save time on them. Consider your necessary activities and look for two that could be done simultaneously. Could you meet up with friends during your lunch break? Fold laundry while you talk on the phone? Check your e-mail while you gulp down breakfast? If so, then do it! A minute combined is a minute saved.

Step Four: Organise your new-found time

Now that you’ve found all this extra time, how can you use it most effectively? First, you need a plan. Your plan will depend on the settings in which you work best. If you’ve been writing for any time at all, you’ll know whether you prefer brief bursts of creativity or a long stretch to build momentum. Think about the times of day when you’re most alert, and how much distraction you can tolerate. Then get out your list of activities and play around with the order of your daily tasks. (You may want to use a calendar or agenda to help.) If you write best in the morning, you could lay out your clothes and prepare lunch the night before. If you’re more of a night owl, see if you can have dinner early in the evening, and tape your TV shows for viewing the next morning or on the weekend. Place any events that disturb your ability to write as far from your preferred writing times as possible. Finally, decide on a time when you’ll write every day, for at least an hour (either all at once, or split up). It’s best to keep your writing sessions at the same time each day. That way, you’ll get into the habit faster, and it’ll train your muse that this is when it needs to show up. An hour a day might seem like a lot, but remember that you’ll have 23 hours for doing everything else. Mark your writing sessions on the calendar, and let the people you live with know that you’ll be unavailable during that time. Only break your writing schedule if you absolutely have to. The more sessions you miss, the easier it’ll be to let the whole thing slide.

Step Five: Start small

If you start your new schedule expecting to write ten pages per session, you’ll become frustrated so quickly that all the time in the world won’t help. You want to stick with it, not scare yourself off. It’ll be easier to keep to your schedule if you enjoy your writing sessions, so approach them with a minimum of pressure. Spend a week with only one goal: that you spend the entire session with your computer or notebook, doing nothing unrelated to writing. Whether you end up with one word or 1000, the fact that you’re writing at all is what matters. By the end of the first week, check what you achieved each day. Set your goals based on your abilities. If you’re able to come up with at least two pages even on your worst days, aim to write two pages every session, remembering that you can always write more. When you find you’re meeting your goal every day without a problem, go ahead an increase it. Little by little, your output will increase.

Step Six: Stay motivated

Goals mean nothing unless you earn something when you meet them. Would you show up at your day job if there wasn’t a paycheck on the way? For every day you reach or pass your writing goals, reward yourself. Pick something that you enjoy but can live without. One of my unproductive pleasures is wandering the Web, so my internet connection stays off until I’m finished my morning writing session. For you, the reward might be a favorite snack, a walk in the nearby park, or one of those TV shows you’ve recorded. If there’s nothing small you’d want to work for, give yourself tokens toward a bigger prize. Drop a dollar into a jar for every successful writing session. When you’ve got enough, spend it on something you’ve been craving. Make the experience of writing positive, and you’ll be eager to sit down with a blank page. Give it a try. Make the time. It won’t be long before you’re wondering how you ever got by without your daily writing.


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