If you want to be a writer, the most important step is actually to, you know, sit down to write. If you’re one of the writers who feels they can only be truly inspired when a full moon shines through their office window just so, it ain’t gonna happen. Instead, scheduling regular times to write is vital.
Here are six strategies to help you keep a writing schedule.
1. Don’t wait for inspiration.
If you wait for inspiration before you write, you could be waiting forever. As Steven King says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Waiting for inspiration is an excuse the people with dusty, half-written manuscripts use. If you actually get your bum in the chair and write, your brain juices will start flowing, and the inspiration will appear while your hands are on the keyboard.
2. Write at your best time.
Our creativity and focus waxes and wanes throughout the day. When are you typically your best creative self? Are you a morning person or a night owl? When does your schedule allow you time? After the kids go to school? An hour after evening chores? During your lunch break? Try to pick a time that is in your zone when you are most alert and that’s also when you have a natural opening in your schedule.
3. Make writing time sacred.
When you get your writing time on your schedule, make it sacred. There’s no shifting it to another time or another day. There’s no starting late so you can answer an email. Make that time, from the actual, pre-decided starting point to the end, time when you actually write. Your writing time is sacred. If it’s not, you won’t take it seriously, which means you won’t take your writing career seriously.
4. Make writing time important.
When you make your writing time sacred, an interesting thing starts happening to it—it starts to feel more important to you. Think about the other things on your list: grocery shopping, parent–teacher conference, picking up a prescription. These are all things you must do in your day. When writing is on your schedule, you will begin to look at it the same way. It’s nonnegotiable. So you will sit down and write.
5. Make writing time a ritual.
If you always, for instance, make a cup of tea before you write, and you always write in the same place, then when you sit down in your writing nook or office with your cup of tea, your brain will get the signal that this is writing time, so it better start getting creative.
6. Set small, achievable goals.
Sit down to write with an aim in mind, and make it reasonable. Let’s say you have one hour, and so your goal is to write 600 words. We humans feel accomplished when we check boxes off on our to-do lists. We actually get a hit of dopamine when we do. So use that to your advantage. When you keep having positive experiences with writing, you will want to keep doing it.
This topic came up in the new coaching group I’m running, called Twin Cities Writing Accountability Group. (If you live in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area, check it out: Twin Cities Writing Accountability Group.) In this group, members commit to a writing goal they will accomplish by our next monthly meeting. We brainstorm ways people can make sure they keep their goals, and scheduling dedicated time to write is one of the top ideas.
If you’re on the fence, I encourage you to try it for a month. You may be surprised how much you’ve written by the end.
Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author services company. To discuss how she can help you with your writing goals, email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com. She also writes a blog about grammar. You can find that here: Grammar Party.
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