If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’m a stickler for organization. My dream shopping spree would involve being let loose in a stationary store. Can you imagine all of the post-it notes and different kinds of folders and binders I can pick up? It’s enough to make my head spin!
I will admit, I’m a bit of a Type-A personality. If I could organize my life down to the millisecond, I probably would. I’ve been told this is bad for my stress levels. I think I’m just jumpy from all the coffee I drink.
One of the questions I get asked most is about creating a writing schedule. I know lots of people who struggle with finding the time, or maintaining a routine. I know from experience that it can feel demoralizing to stare at a blank document for days on end and still not be able to muscle up anything after being away from the text for a long while.
It’s worth noting that everyone works differently. What works for me and my productivity might not work for you. I’m trying to keep this blog as vague or open-ended as possible in hopes of it helping a wider range of people.
First, let’s talk about the significance of a writing schedule.
When it comes to all changes we’d like to see in our lives, it comes down to consistency – the habits we create. The only way we can create a habit is through repetition. Which means that, for the first little bit, we have to force ourselves to do something we haven’t been. We know this when we apply it to going to the gym, or maybe maintaining a skincare routine. It’s really no different when it comes to writing.
Once the routine is in place, it’s easier to get yourself into the headspace of writing. You know that at X-time during the day, you’re going to sit down and write for thirty minutes, an hour. Heck, even fifteen! You’ll find yourself preparing for it, thinking about it. It’s just a matter of being consistent.
How to get started with a new writing routine
I am an advocate of slow, sustainable growth. I don’t think any good comes from piling on expectations and going “all in.” Frankly, I feel like it is a recipe for disaster. Sure, a new schedule with all the bells and whistles might work for a little while. Eventually, something will happen to throw things off kilter — work, kids, stress, illness. Those little obstacles then become living nightmares. Not only do you fall off, but then you stay off. Maybe you’ll brush yourself off and get back to it, but the likelihood is that the commitment will wane. Those brief periods of success will dwindle until you feel as though there is no point in even trying. Now we’re back at square one.
Give yourself the opportunity to grow. Give yourself small, reasonable goals. And then when you smash them? Congratulate yourself.
For example, you barely write once a week. You commit to writing two days a week for a half an hour each time. Once you get used to writing that frequently, you can add another day! And so on and so forth until you’re writing your ideal amount.
Remember to go slowly. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself and send yourself all the way back to square one.
Now, how do we find the time?
We all know our own schedules best. I know it’s easy to fall into the pit of, “I have no time” — to which I say, you likely do, it’s just a matter of repurposing that time.
When I first started my routine, I carved out a half hour after work (which is perfect for me, because I need a solid half hour to just not talk to anyone). Eventually, as my schedule shifted and as my “writing tolerance” grew, I shifted to waking up early. Some days I get a half hour in, some days a full hour!
Many people fall into the trap of thinking they have to have hours upon hours to stare at their screen which stops them from writing when they want to. If the itch is there, scratch it. If you get out 56 words? Great. If you get out 2.5k words? Great. What matters is getting out what you can when you can. Stop putting unnecessary pressure on scheduling and time slots. Writing is a difficult enough process — please, do not add more unnecessary pressure. You’ll get it done. Just keep at it!
Your routine is going to have to be unique to you and to your schedule. Only you know what times will work best for your life and obligations. Just remember to start small. Avoid the “all or nothing” trap we all find ourselves in so frequently. And above all else, if things don’t go according to plan afford yourself some grace.
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