You sit down to your computer, the entire world literally at your fingertips, your hot cup of coffee next to you, determined to crank out some serious writing, when the next thing you know, it happens:
Two hours have passed, your coffee has gone cold, and you haven’t accomplished much more than catching up on the latest Kardashian to get pregnant. Being a writer is an amazing thing because it means you’re in charge of your own schedule, but the awful thing about being a writer is that you’re in charge of your own schedule. Unfortunately, you do need to be the one who is making a writing schedule that works for you if you want to make it as a writer. So if you’re looking for some tips, inspiration, or direction on how to make a writing schedule that works for you, you’ve come to the right place.
Step 1: Analyze your own energy flow
The very first step to creating your own writing schedule should be taking a good, hard look at your own energy flow. This does not mean taking a good, hard look at what you think your energy flow should be like, but instead, it means being totally honest with yourself. You may like to think of yourself as a night-owl, but if your nights actually consist of snuggling up with your cat on the couch, the night hours may not be your best bet for actual creative work.
Be honest with yourself and analyze when you have the most energy and when you feel the most creatively “on.” For example, I hate working past 9 o’clock at night, but love getting up at 5 in the morning. Morning is when I feel the most energized and “in the zone,” so I save my most time-intensive work for then. Smaller writing pieces or more administrative work gets scheduled in the afternoon when I feel sluggish.
Step 2: Adapt as necessary
Although analyzing your own energy levels is important, sometimes life doesn’t allow for you to only work when you feel like working. Especially when you are a parent of small children, or a caregiver, or have another full-time job, writing is something that seems to be fit in within the cracks of life and sometimes, you have to adapt to make it work.
It’s been helpful for me as a freelance writer for six years, going through several different seasons of life, including having a regular outside job, working night shifts, having babies upon babies, and starting a business, to realize that what writing schedule worked during one season of my life will not necessarily work for another season. And that’s OK. Sometimes, you get to pick the perfect schedule that works with your own energy levels and flow and other times, you just do the best you can.
Step 3: Use technology to your advantage
OK, so even if you nail down the perfect writing schedule and commit to making it happen, there’s one teensy, tiny problem: you still have to actually write during the time you say you’re going to write. I am as guilty as anyone in sitting down to actually work and then getting lost in the sinkhole of the Internet. Many writers I know rely on technology that blocks certain technology so they can use technology to actually get work done. It makes total sense, right? One of my favorite writing resources is the #AmWriting podcast and episode 66 really dives deep into some of the tools, like Cold Turkey, that writers can use to block distractions, such as the Internet or even certain sites that aren’t for research, so they can focus on work.
Browse sample schedules
I have a somewhat shameful addiction to hearing about how other writers structure their day. I’m especially addicted to reading about other writers who are also moms who work from home. My life as a freelance writer and at-home mom of four means that often times, there is no rhyme or reason to my day and I love hearing from other writers who either 1) have it a lot more together than I do or 2) are just as all-over-the-place as I am.
But aside from any strange obsession I have with hearing how other writers manage to get their work done, looking at sample schedules can help you create your own or modify a schedule that works for you.
Incorporate breaks into your schedule
If you work from home, there’s simply no reason to force yourself to sit in a chair for 8 hours straight and actually, the longer stretches you work, the less productive you might actually be. Studies have shown that taking breaks actually makes you more productive, so set a timer, invest a wearable device that will tell you it’s time to stand up, or just step outside the next time you feel your focus waning. Even breaking once an hour can help you be more productive. Incorporate breaks into your writing schedule whenever possible so you are not only ensuring your own health, but taking steps to make sure your time is as efficient as possible too.
Realize that writing is more than writing
Sure, your ideal writing schedule is going to include time to actually write, but don’t forget that having a career as a writer is about more than just typing words on a screen. You also need to time to dream, to let your mind wander, to let the creative juices flow. I used to think that any time spent doing anything but actually writing was a waste of time, but now I know better—time to sit outside or hike or even browse social media can all help reinvigorate me and provide fodder and inspiration for future writing.
What does your ideal writing schedule look like?
Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer. She lives in Michigan with her husband, four young kids, and a flock of chickens. Find her at chauniebrusie.com.