How to Develop a Writing Schedule

10-10-2015 154This is going to be the biggest understatement ever; but being an adult is HARD.

Figuring out how to balance a social life with work and study is difficult enough without adding writing into the mix. But we writers manage it – though it may be at the expense of sleeping or eating.

So, I have a few simple steps to prevent sleep exhaustion and starvation along the journey of completing your current writing project.

Step 1: Clearly outline your ULTIMATE goal. 

Do you want to complete a 60k word novel? A 100 page screenplay? Begin a successful blog or website? Enter a short story competition?

Figure out what your goal is and focus on that. Write it on a post it note and stick it to the top corner of your computer/laptop/notebook. Draw a pretty picture. Make a vision board. Whatever works for you – but don’t use this step as an excuse to procrastinate.

Set a goal, write it down and move on to step 2.

Step 2: Give your goal a TIME pressure. 

When do you want this project to be completed by? Set a date (a realistic date – don’t assume you can write a novel over a long weekend) and add it to your calendar. Draw a big circle around the date and have huge, kick-ass red arrows pointing at it with exclamation marks all around the edges. Make it obvious, and dramatic, and eye catching.

If you don’t own a paper calendar, use the ‘How many days until’ app on your electronic calendar, computer or phone. It adds a sense of urgency – like a countdown to a rocket launch.

Again, don’t overthink this step. Set a time limit and move on.

Step 3: Answer the following questions – and write the answers down! 

Question 1: What do you already have in your life which fills up time?

Work? Study? Social gatherings? Sports? Volunteering? Children? Think about the things which take up time, and write them down. If possible, use a weekly planner to block out days and times which you know are already booked. Of course, this is not always possible due to the unpredictable nature of life – but do your best. 

Question 2: How often do you want to write?

Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Think about your answer to Step 2 while answering this question. Don’t set a goal to finish a 60k word novel in a month and only set aside one hour a week to write. Be realistic. 

Question 3: What time do you feel most inspired to write?

Early morning? Lunch time? After dinner? 2am? 

Question 4: Does this time fit in with your current life schedule?

Yes? No? Maybe? Be honest. 

Step 4: Reflection

Look at your answers in Step 3. You now know roughly what time you have free to write, and you know when you enjoy writing. If things line up, then you know there is no problem and you are ready to go!

However, if things didn’t line up, then that poses another question. Probably the hardest question so far.

Question 5: Is there something you are willing to give up to make time for writing?

If not, then perhaps now is not the time to take on such a writing project. 

BONUS TIPS: 

Tip 1: Have a time limit for each writing session. Set an alarm on your phone and once that time is up, STOP! Have a walk, make yourself something to eat, drink some water. Remember to take care of yourself in between bouts of writing.

Tip 2: Having a set word goal for every day is – in my experience – pretty pointless and just stresses me out. You never know what is going to happen as each day comes. Instead, have a more general weekly word goal so, if something comes up, you have six more days to catch up and hit your target.

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to change your writing schedule as things happen. Life is about compromise and being flexible is a very useful skill to have as a writer.

_____

Now that I have written this down I have to follow my own rules. 😉

Happy writing!

~ Gem.

(Previously published on The Storytellers Hub)

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