You have this grand idea, this story, this thing living inside you (not an alien), yet you aren't getting it out of you the way you envision.
You can't stop thinking about it. So, why isn't it coming to fruition?
Now, before you roll your eyes and throw your pen at your screen, hear me out.
Yes, a schedule is what you're missing.
But, but, but Rochelle! A schedule doesn't work for me!
Okay, dearie, we'll talk about it. Just give me a second and I need you to put your big-kid undies on.
I understand, I really do. I'm one of those people that take on way more than they can actually do all at once. I love it. And then I crash and burn. I'll map out this dream-world schedule and then never look at it again. That's lame. Here's what I've figured out since then.
Why it's important
You do know why it's good for you, right?
If I want to write a great novel, or a great blog post, or a great book about marsupials then won't I need just the tools, the know-how, and the desire? You do need those. But if you're just trying to do it all when you're struck with inspiration or have a bit of time in your busy day, then you won't write consistently, and you won't be where you want to be in a month or a year's time. Then you'll scowl at yourself and throw a tantrum like my children sometimes do (not pretty) and no one will be happy. Not you, not me, and not anyone near you when this tantrum is taking place. Then you'll regress into this cycle of self-loathing and resentment. But I have a cure for that!
[Tweet "Scheduling writing time prevents tantrums."]
But schedules are so rigid and unfeeling
That's very true. If you are a fly-by-your-pants type of person then you may find schedules to be too binding. I tend to be that way.
You've probably heard of routines.
They are lovely. I do these in many aspects of my life. For working, cleaning, home schooling, writing, and any other obligation I have.
What's the difference?
A schedule looks like this:
7 am: Wake
7:15 - shower and get ready
8 - breakfast
8:30 - leave for work
A routine looks like this:
- Wake up
- shower, get ready
You can do most of these out of order (except you have to wake up first). You just have blocks of time that you need to accomplish these items, or they could be just do it sometime today.
Pick whichever one works best for you.
I am a hybrid. I need a schedule for certain things and a routine for the rest. The things I really don't want to do I have to put into a routine or I'll never do them. Like cleaning. Ugh, I hate cleaning. If I say I have to do wash the dishes and sweep the floor and start a load of laundry right after breakfast I'll punch someone in the throat then I won't clean until someone is coming over next month. If I say, you have these to do as your morning routine then I can do that because it feels less like my mom is forcing me and more like a choice.
A hybrid would look like this:
7:30 - wake up
10:30 - calls to Jones and Montoya
11:15 - email Martin and Johns
12 - lunch
5:30 - make dinner
6 - eat dinner
6:30 - clean up dinner
7 - family time
You list out the items that would be in each routine block. Or you could have one routine for the whole day and then just do those as you go.
I have fiddled with my writing schedule/routine and think I have what I like. I am still tweaking it a bit here and there.
[Tweet "Schedule or Routine? Which do you prefer?"]
Time of day
Now you need to pick the best time of day for writing.
When do you have a moment to yourself? Never!? Well, you'll need to make one then. Can you wake up earlier? I can't, so this is a no-go for me. This would be a quick trip to failure land. Have time free at lunch? In the afternoon? After everyone is in bed? Hey! Right after dinner you could take off and write and let everyone else clean up the mess! Yes! Perfect.
[Tweet "When is your favorite time of day to write?"]
Well, how long are you going to write for? 5 minutes, 10, an hour, two hours? Make it realistic and attainable. If you're swamped every day then don't put in a 3 hour block. Perhaps you have a really long Tuesday, but your Monday and Wednesday is more open. Schedule 3o minutes on Tuesday and then 1 - 2 hours for your Monday and Wednesday.
You need to schedule some time every day, no matter what. But you don't have to set yourself up to fail with something that's never going to happen.
If you're a word count kind of person, then set a word count goal for each writing session. Again, tailor it towards your time available.
One or chunks?
No, I'm not talking about tossing your cookies. That's no fun.
Would it better if you schedule one writing time per day or a few different times throughout the day?
Now, I know I just said you need to schedule time every day, and I do think that's true, but I have heard of some people that schedule marathon sessions over the weekend instead of shorter sprints throughout the week. That's what works for them.
Here's my schedule/routine. My green blocks of time are when I am transcribing live University classes which means that is a set schedule. Mealtime is scheduled but can be flexible, depending on my children's appetite that day. My blocks of Home Schooling are a set time, but it is a routine and not an exact scheduled out block of time. Sometimes that block might be science and history, sometimes art and math. Just depends on what we're doing that day. I have times dedicated to blogging and writing, but when I have a moment otherwise I'll either be napping or fitting in more writing time.
The orange blocks say Blog, but that also includes Writing. I think this schedule that I took a screen shot of just didn't have the blocks filled in with writing and I'm too lazy to go back and screenshot a different day with the correct heading in the orange blocks. I see the color orange and know that means to get out my laptop, notebook, and pen and get to work.
What's clear to me is that I need to give something up to make way for a little more free time!
In the end
You need to find out what works best for you. Don't do what I'm doing or what Speedy Gonzales is doing, or Betty Boop is doing. Do what works for you and your lifestyle. If you don't it'll never work for you, no matter how color-coded and pretty you make it look.
What kind of schedule or routine do you use? When is your favorite time of day to write?
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