This guest post originally appeared on Violette L. Meir’s blog. Also, shout out to Brande McCleese who just successfully revamped her writing schedule. Ya’ll stop by her blog and show her some love! Happy Monday, you guys!
Back in the day (way back. Before Facebook), I had a creative writing professor who asked the class: “How many of you have a writing schedule?” Very few of us raised our hands. A writing schedule? I mean, I watched The Young and the Restless and The Golden Girls regularly and spent a lot of time thinking about going to the gym. I knew I eventually wanted to write a novel, but actually writing? Who had time for that? But as time went on, I kept thinking about what he said and it dawned on me: how was I going to write the next New York Times best seller if I didn’t sit my behind down and write? So, I put my big girl panties on and made the decision: I was going to establish a writing schedule. But when? I had classes during the day and after 5 pm my brain turned to mush. That only left the mornings. And if I was going to make any real progress, I needed two whole hours. It was settled: my writing time would be from 5am until 7 am, when my house was completely quiet.
I was so proud of myself! I waited for my professor after our next class and told him about my new writing schedule. “I get up at 5 in the morning!” I gushed.
He looked at me and said, “Well, even if you’re writing crap at 5 am, at least you’re still writing.”
His words went right over my head. All I knew at the time was that I was now a serious writer. A bonafied, eat it, live it, and breathe it writer. Not one of those people who walked around complaining of how they wanted to write a novel but couldn’t find the time. No, sir! I was dead serious about my craft. I would write the next Great American Novel and give litra-ture a whole new meaning. I told all of my friends and family and pretty much did everything to let the world know aside from hanging a shingle outside of my door that read, “Serious writer resides here. Inquire within.”
Fast-forward 10 years or so and here I am, still writing at 5 am. I’ve made it a priority. Even if it means going to bed early. Or waking up even when I’m tired (to combat this I usually preset my coffee pot so that if I have a hard time waking up, the smell of French Roast will lure me to the kitchen, and finally to the computer). But most of the time, I get up ready to confront whatever idea or manuscript I’m tackling at the time.
So what’s happened since I’ve established a writing schedule? Well, I’ve spent many a morning writing short stories that will never see the light of day, outlining novels that I’ll probably never write, wading through terrible ideas and even more terrible manuscripts, squinting at my computer screen (wondering how I could come up with an idea so hackneyed), frowning at my coffee cup (wishing I had just a tad more hazelnut creamer), and giving a good ole fashioned western style stare down to my computer screen before rolling up my sleeves to confront my WIP.
I’ve abandoned more novels than I’ve finished, thrown several novels out of the house, and divorced many well-meaning protagonists. But on the flip side of that, three not so bad novels, several well thought-out outlines, and many brainstorming sessions have come at 5 am. Had I not established a routine, I would probably still be twiddling my thumbs and saying, “You know, I want to write a novel. I just don’t have the time!”
So if you’re having trouble establishing a writing schedule (and finding that, every time you sit down to write, there are a host of distractions that come your way), consider this: what are your goals and how long will it take you to reach them? For instance, if you plan to write a full-length novel (80,000 words are so), decide on a deadline and stick to it. You want to give yourself 6 months? Then you’ll need to write just under 450 words a day. Doesn’t sound so bad when you break it down like that, huh? You could probably do that on your lunch break! And if you can’t devote 2 hours, try to commit to 30 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how fast your word count will add up!
Also, considering your work schedule and family obligations, when is the best time for you to write? Early mornings? Afternoon? Late at night? On your lunch break, perhaps? Pick a time and stick with it until it becomes second nature.
Can’t write every day? Commit to 3 days a week. And if you can’t do 3 days a week, be a weekend warrior. But if you’d like to write a novel, try to commit to something, even if it’s only one day a week.
What about others? Do you have a writing schedule? If not, how do you prioritize your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!