How do you get your writing done—or do you? Are you a procrastinator—do you let Time Bandits get in your way? The solution is simple and it’s one you use for the rest of your life: you have to schedule your writing dates. You make dates for everything else, right? Do you know if you’re more creative in the morning or at night? Be sure to plan your writing time around the best times of your day and week.
How do you feel about scheduling your writing? Perhaps you prefer to wait for the muse to knock on your door. Do you ever despair getting your book done? These questions are part of a writer’s dilemma. This is why books don’t get finished, and frustration sets in.
I used to be one of those “write when you feel like it” people. I believed in inspiration, I believed in the need for an extra adrenaline push to get started. But I didn’t write very often. I made this okay by telling myself I wasn’t a professional writer, and I had a lot of other things to do. I noticed that I did a lot of thinking instead of writing. I tried to work out the scenes in my memoir and the challenges I was having by having it whir around in my brain. However, I didn’t write enough, and the lack of progress made me wonder if I should be doing a memoir at all.
Then I listened to authors speaking in bookstores—back when there were several in town. I learned a lot from listening to these authors—all of them talked about engaging with their ideas, characters, and solving problems through writing. One author, I forget who, said, “Writing leads to more writing.”
Hmmm—I decided to check this out, and soon enough I found it was true. Once I sat down and re-read what I’d written the day before—which is what a lot of writers have done, from Steinbeck to Virginia Woolf, and as I began to read, the ideas started flowing. Soon I’d be writing, tinkering, editing—engaging with my material. It was so easy once I opened the document and began to read. And I discovered that the more I wrote, the more I was able to write. It became much easier to write for a longer period of time. It’s sort of like exercise—once you set the time aside, you build up your stamina and you WANT to keep writing.
Tips to Get Started
There are several ways to deal with getting yourself to write. One of the best is to set a time, and show up. You show up on time at work, right? If you make a coffee date with someone, you arrive on time. We learn to show up for others, and we have to do it for ourselves. We need to become our Writer’s Best Friend.
- Make realistic commitments to yourself about the time you set. If you are definitively NOT a morning person, 5:30 AM may not work for you. But you might need to stay up an hour or two later at night. Try both systems and see what works best. Set a system that helps you keep your writing time regular.
- Since you keep coffee dates with no trouble, set a date with your writer self at a coffee shop or café. These days, everyone is sitting around with computers or iPads, typing away. Set a date at a coffee shop especially if you are one of these people who CLEANS when you are at home. Get away from the sponge and mop, and get thee to the café. Bring your notebooks and your computer, get some tea or coffee, and tune into your writing.
- Set times with a writer buddy to get your scene done. You both agree on a time you’re going to write and then you keep the date, and check in later with each other. How much did you write, how did it go, when is our next date are good check in questions.
- Figure out how many words you want to get written and the time frame you are giving yourself. To get 60,000 words in 6 months you have to write 10,000 words a month: 10,000 divided by 4 weeks is 2500 words a week. 2500 divided by 7 days is 347 words a day. That is 1.5 pages, double spaced. You can do that!
- Know that creating a schedule and asking yourself to show up is developing yourself as a “real” writer, and helps you to feel good about what you are doing. It also creates a positive habit, and once you have a good habit developed, it’s much easier to keep going with little extra effort.
- Dream your book–do you see the cover in your mind? Where will it sit in the bookstores? Sleep with your manuscript under your pillow to invite your subconscious mind to help you while you sleep. But also…
- Make your writing dates, and keep them! Watch yourself get your book done in six months!
How do you feel about a strict writing schedule? Are you willing to experiment for a week to see if you can write more?
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Are any of these familiar? •Stuckness •Energy dips •Procrastination •Doubting memories
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This is a great subject, Linda Joy. I knew I needed accountability or I wouldn’t get my mss done. So I wrote a proposal, signed a contract, and then put a time clock on my website to double my accountability to my readers as well as my publisher. Wow. That gets me to my writing table. I wrote one chapter/month for the last year. Now I have six months to revise, and polish. Without this kind of pressure, I doubt I would finish.
This is such a timely post, Linda Joy with some great tips for staying accountable. I love ” get thee to the cafe” to avoid all those household distractions! I’ve had to impose my own deadlines and assignments now that I’m not in a weekly teleworkshop. I also signed up for Rescue Time which monitors my computer activities on social media and Microsoft Office and gives me a weekly report on the time spent on each and what areas are the most distracting. It is helpful to see in black and white what my productivity is. It’s all about making myself accountable and persisting in my efforts to reach my goal of finishing my first draft in this ” Year of the Memoir”. Thanks for a great post!