The September issue of Writers Digest features several articles on how to “Make the Most of Your Writing Time.” I’ve noticed this seems to be a common problems for writers, particularly the ones who have families and day jobs. “There just isn’t enough time,” is the refrain. The long and short of it is: if you want to write, you have to make the time to do so. A regular writing regimen, while maybe difficult at first, will create the space in your life for writing. The key is consistency and firmness.
Consistency, rather than rigidity, is the first factor in creating a productive writing regimen. Many writers will tell you that you must have a daily writing practice, insisting that you can and should carve out some, any, amount of time each day to write. For some people, that might work. However, not everyone can be productive and creative in one-hour increments. Sure, I can spit out pages of words in short bursts. Unfortunately, it will all be dreck. I’ll have to spend so much time revising and editing it that I might as well have taken the time I really needed the first time around.
When I’m writing (creatively, as opposed to potboiler freelance articles), I need time to relax. I simply can’t produce focused, authentic, creative work if I’m constantly looking at the clock, worrying about my next appointment. I need a minimum of four hours of uninterrupted, quiet solitude; I prefer a whole day.
Because I only work two to three days a week, I can pick a day and block it off as my “Writing Day” every week. I did this last year, with the goal of finishing my manuscript by the end of December, and I almost made it. However, I didn’t quite finish, and I neglected to schedule more writing days after my deadline, so that cost me another seven months. I won’t let that happen again. Now I have, once again, scheduled weekly writing days for revisions. Once I finish this book, I’ll continue to keep a regular schedule with my next project.
Notice I’m not following the rules about how often I should write, but I am being consistent with what works for me.
The second, and equally important, factor in creating a good writing regimen is firmness. Once you’ve decided when you’re going to write, stick to it. Don’t schedule anything else during that time. Turn off the phone; don’t answer the door. At first, you may have some glitches and resistance: you already scheduled a parent-teacher conference next week at the time you have now decided is your writing time, you still feel the urge to check your e-mail every half-hour, you decide to pop over to your local coffeeshop and end up chatting with a friend for most of your allotted time. Be patient with yourself. Don’t abandon your regimen over a few setbacks; get back on track next time. You’ll find as the weeks go by, it becomes easier and more routine. Hopefully, as you see your word- or page-count grow, you’ll feel encouraged to continue.
One final thought on regular writing practice: have a goal. I have a writing friend who, when she makes the time to sit down and write, suddenly comes up blank. She has no idea what to do or where to start because she doesn’t have a goal in mind. Are you working on a novel, or a collection of poems, or doing revisions? You have to have a focus, or goal, when you sit down, or you run the risk of staring at a white screen the whole time.
Good luck and keep writing!