Building a writing schedule into your day is one of the most common pieces of writing advice. It requires you to sit down and actually do what you say you’re going to do — write. So why is it so difficult to build a writing schedule into your day?Developing a writing schedule does require making the time and space to write but it also requires some harder work. Where does motivation come from? How can we stay focused? How do we know what to write?I’ve used these five tips for building my own writing schedule. It’s helped me complete three novels, draft three more, and publish two (as of the date of writing this post), not to mention any of the other creative projects I’ve started using a schedule like this. Apply these to your writing process and you’ll find you’re able to achieve so much more.
Pick the same time to write
Often people believe that they’ll “find the time to write eventually” rather than making the time themselves. Writing requires more willpower than just hoping you’ll come across an empty hour in your day where you’ll pull out your notebook instead of your phone.When you pick the same time every day to write, you’re training your mind and your body to actually write during that time. There’s a common quote, attributed to many different authors, about writing only when inspiration strikes. Of course, that inspiration strikes every day at X o’clock.Writing inspiration strikes me at 4:45 AM. No, you don’t have to get up at an ungodly hour to get your writing moment. For me, that’s a time where I know my only disturbance will be a purring cat trying to get up on my shoulders to go back to sleep. For others, they stay up later or use their lunch hour. Just make sure that’s a time that you can stick to every day of the week. Yes, that means I also get up at 4:45 on the weekends.
Schedule a time/word count goal
Personally, I thought I would struggle more with this. I know that some days my output is going to be different than others. When I traded the ‘word count’ stress for a time-boxed goal, I found much more success. However, others thrive knowing they need to reach a certain word count before they are allowed to step away from their keyboard.Setting these types of goals helps you stay focused on your work. If you know that for an hour you are scheduled to write and after you can follow up on that tweet or text or video, you’ll stay present in your work. That’s what it’s all about — staying present. Be with your writing until you reach that designated stopping point. If you have momentum, continue. If it’s painful to make it to that last second, you might need a break.
Write what you love (warm-up)
My inner-editor is quite critical, even when I love what I’m writing. Sometimes she’s so brutal I sit and stare at the blank page, trying to create just one sentence to get me started.That’s why I’ve developed a warm-up routine. Some people have rituals they follow before they start writing — they heat up a coffee or tea, situate themselves with blankets, arrange their papers, and meditate. Others forgo the ritual and just go with it.My ritual contains more writing. On a blank sheet of paper (in a different app than the one I will start my writing project in), I set a timer and write for three to five minutes without stopping. It’s a great warm-up exercise being able to write whatever I want, either related or unrelated to the project I will start, without consequence. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s typically enjoyable (using a prompt or just thought ramblings), and my inner-editor starts to fade into the background.By the time I reach my scheduled writing project, I’m able to attack the first sentence and just go from there. Sometimes my warm-up actually produces the start of the scene or article. Sometimes I use that warm-up to outline the upcoming events of my book and I have an idea of where to go. It all depends on the day but the ultimate goal is to shut my inner editor out of my head.
Sit down prepared
Sometimes the threat of a blank page is overwhelming. That’s why my warm-up is critical to my success during the writing session. What also helps is having a plan before I sit down to write. Sometimes that means I’m thinking about how I’m going to start the scene as I get ready in the morning. Often I’m preparing for what I will write as I journal the evening before.Every time I reach my desk in the morning, I know exactly what I’m going to do during my scheduled block of writing time. If I don’t have a plan of attack, I’ll usually end up browsing articles, reading social media, or thinking about how my day is going to go. Basically I’ll do everything but write.Have an idea of what you’re going to work on before you sit down and you’ll be able to start quicker. And when you finish your writing session and you know what comes next, leave yourself a note with as much detail as you can about where the next scene will go. Give your future self a break.
Protect your time (eliminate distractions)
Inevitably, someone will want to encroach on your writing time (especially if you do it when other humans are awake). You have to be able to protect your time. That means setting boundaries with other people — close your door, tell them you’re busy, turn off your phone, tell people you’ll be unavailable during these hours, etc. If you get invited to a party that cuts into your writing time… well, you’ll have to decide what your priorities are.It also means you have to protect your writing schedule from yourself.Eliminate any and all distractions that you are guilty of — Internet browsing, phone scrolling, social media checking, dishes, laundry, washing the car, cleaning the gutter… you get the picture. Just as it’s important to schedule the time, you have to do what you can to protect that time.
Success looks different to each writer but applying these five strategies will help you produce more and, hopefully, better content. The more you practice with building and protecting a writing schedule, the easier it gets. Start with one of these and work to build up to a full schedule. I hope you find success.
I used this strategy to help launch a Patreon along with my other creative works. You can help support this writing and my novels by joining me and my community. Right now I’m releasing my first novel, Soul Forgotten, for free so you can read along. Become a patron for some fun benefits like podcasts, videos, and other free books.