Friday, November 2, 2007

A Writing Schedule that Works for you.

By Josi S. Kilpack

Earlier this week my friend Anne Bradshaw forwarded some advice from Dave Wolverton, a very successful and well published author. It was full of wonderful information about things that might interfere with your writing such as medication, depression, too much caffeine etc. I found many very valuable things in what he had to say. Hopefully Anne will let us know how we can get on his "Kick in the Butt" e-mails, as I couldn't seem to find his website in the 47 seconds I allotted to research for this blog.

Amid the info were some suggestions on how to find what works best for you. He mentioned things like finding what time of day you're most creative, and then working out a schedule so you can write at that time. For just a moment I closed my eyes and fantasized I was a single, non-mother that was either a) an heiress or b) so successful in my writing I didn't have to work another job and could treat my writing as if it were my only Dependant. Then I opened my eyes to a cup being shoved in my face followed by the words "I need a drink", my desk piled with homework, the phone ringing, and someone announcing that the cat had peed on the carpet again.

Fact is, I have no idea what time of day I'm most creative because I have not yet reached a point of being able to schedule my writing--it is still fitting into the nooks and cranny's of daily life where my family and home responsibilities keep it terribly suppressed. However, the way I write has changed a lot since I started writing and the last few days have allowed me to think of things that have worked for me. My life, as is any writer's--even those that do have a schedule--is a constant work in progress and one thing to keep in mind about the beauty of writing is that it is so flexible. I can write at 1:00 a.m. or 11:30. I can write at home, or on the bus, or in a plane or on a train. I can write both here an there, I can write most anywhere!

The key is being able to evaluate what works NOW, this week, this month, this year, and then making it important enough to do.

Things that have worked for me:
*One day for me, one day for them--If I can spend one day catching up on laundry, phone calls, bills, vacuuming and running errands, the next day can allow all those things to slip a little. Often having three hours of total writing time in one day is more effective than one hour every day because I can stay more focused. I tend to work harder on my days 'off' writing so that the days 'on' can be more effective.
*Planning in advance--By looking at tomorrow's calendar I can see where my free (ha, ha) time lies and can often determine where I can fit my writing in. Knowing this in advance helps me stay on target.
*Setting a timer--this is especially effective when I'm feeling blocked and don't want to write, or I'm super busy. I'll set the timer for 10, 20, 45 minutes and write for that amount of time. When it dings I'm able to feel proud of making the commitment and go on to other things.
*Take it with you--I find I can write in the car for about 30 minutes without getting sick. I can write on a plane for hours (my husband loves that). I have both a laptop and an Alphasmart that are very portable. Whether for trips or just really busy days, I can take my writing with me.
*Goals--sometimes I just want to get a certain amount of writing done. I either want a word count to applaud my efforts, or a time commitment. Shooting for a specific target often sharpens my aim, whether my goal is 3,000 words a week or 5 hours of writing. You can use a stop watch to track it, write it down, or challenge a friend. Either way you have a bigger reason to write than just to say you've done it.

What's worked for other people, but not necessarily me:
*Getting up earlier than the rest of the house and using the alone time to put your words down--this doesn't work for me because we're up at 4:45 anyway.
*Staying up later than everyone else, when the day is behind you and all else is washed, asleep, folded, or put off until tomorrow--this doesn't work for me unless I have a GREAT idea. seeing as how we get up so early, bedtime can't be pushed off for long.
*A set schedule is something I drool over. The idea of having a set time every day that you always right truly makes me heart all aflutter, however, it's not my life. . . yet. If you can discipline this kind of structure into your writing you don't have to work so hard to fit it in which would just be heavenly.
*Blocking out huge chunks of time, or even days, to focus only on writing is another dream I have. Brandon Sanderson wrote an entire book in 16 days, and Jeff savage worked a more than full time job and wrote a book in I think 40 days or something insane like that. It takes cooperation from the other people in your life, for sure, but if you can get 5 hours to yourself, or even a weekend--wow! One day, this will be my life. I'm sure of it.

The point is that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another--even if you're lives are very similar. I know many stay-at-home-mom's that find writing time in completely different ways than I do. But remember the plane, train, box thing--you can write any way that works for you.

Got any ideas I didn't mention? I'm taking notes.


Heather B. Moore said...

Great ideas, Josi! I write 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Monday-Thursday. If I don't make my writing goal, I'll stay up late at night sometimes. It's tough to get started sometimes, and on the other hand, it's tough to walk away from the computer other times.

A. Riley said...

I like the alternating days ideas. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't spend my time writing, because there are many things that I should be doing around the house. But definately working harder one day, so you can write the next sounds like a good idea.

I have a 3 and 1 year old, so time is limited to me. But typically my writing comes out after they go to sleep. And, of course, whenever a brilliant idea comes to my head.

Julie Wright said...

I am slowly learning to not beat myself up over my writing schedule. I love the idea of a schedule that works for you even if it isn't the ten hour a day schedule your hero author has.