The Writing Life: Setting a schedule

This post is part of a series examining the core habits and tools of the writing life. Join the conversation in the comments section or on Twitter

Writing is not so much a single action as it is a habit. Whether you’re a successful writer tomorrow depends largely on whether you show up today. Easier said than done, right?

If you’re anything like me, your future self is less than reliable. You can’t trust that bum to get anything done. So, you have to thwart him or her by developing plans and processes to ensure you act on your good intentions. One of the best ways to do this is to set a schedule.

Set aside time every day to write. If you’re already writing for someone else, this is a snap. You already have a good incentive to write every day. If you’re not writing for a living, though, following through can be tricky. Here are some tips for making it happen:

  • Identify your peak time: If you’re a morning person, consider turning your pre-work coffee break into a writing session. If your brain does its best work in the evening, set aside time to write in those peak hours.
    Sometimes, circumstances dictate our best times. For instance, I usually get my most potent dose of inspiration half an hour before I’m supposed to start work. (Go figure.) You may find that your best time is while you’re riding the subway.
    The important thing to remember is your peak time is unique to you. Don’t fixate on what time of day Hemingway did his best writing. Focus on what works for you.
  • Schedule it. I’m a chronic space cadet, so my planner and online calendars are my lifeline. If anything is going to get done, it has to go in my calendar. That includes my weekly writing exercises.
    The same could work for you, perhaps. Schedule a time daily to write and put it in your calendar. Or, simply set up a recurring reminder on your phone. Do whatever works to keep you on track.
  • Set an expectation. If you really need a good reason to write, start a blog and then tell your friends to read it. Tell them what day and time your next post will go live. Promote the heck out of it on Facebook and Twitter.
    Now, you have an audience — people who expect to see your writing. You don’t want to let them down, do you? Of course not. External expectations can be a pretty powerful motivator. Use them to your advantage.

The toolbox

Here are some of my favorite tools to keep me on track and on schedule.

  • Google Calendar: Free to anyone with a Gmail account. You can create color-coded calendars and set up multiple reminders for any event. A saving grace for the chronically forgetful.
  • Old-fashioned paper planners: Always a favorite. I have to write things down to remember them, so these are my lifesaver for immediate priorities and tasks.
  • Writing prompts: If you don’t know what to write about, this handy list from Writer’s Digest can save your bacon.

Your turn

When is your best time to write? How do you make sure you write on a regular basis? Share your ideas, triumphs, and tribulations in the comment section.

Next up

Where to write: We’ll look at some nifty platforms both for private journaling and public blogging.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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