Staying Motivated to Write: Part II

Last week I compared writing to going to the gym. You know you’ll feel good after you get there, but it’s hard to get off the couch. I’m going to stick with that comparison again and talk about scheduling your writing time.

Just as people are more likely to stay with an exercise regime if they put their workout times on their calendar, creating a writing calendar can help keep you working through your most current draft.
Most writers are also juggling a day job, family, and other personal responsibilities. Carving out time to write can be difficult. We also often find ourselves feeling guilty about taking time out from the rest of our lives to sit alone with a computer and “make stuff up.”
So here’s tip number two. Your writing time is just as important as anything else you do.
That’s right, just as important. And I’ll tell you why.
You’re a better person when your writing is going well. I don’t have to know you to know that’s true. You’re less grouchy. You have more patience. You are more able to be available for your family and friends and do better in your day job when you are also paying attention to your writing.
So don’t feel guilty about taking the time out to do it. And more importantly, let the people around you know that is your time and you need to be left alone to do it. The more interruptions you have, the less productive, so if people leave you alone you’ll get done faster. (Okay, so we all know you might get on a hot streak with all that focus and hide out in your writing space for the rest of the weekend, but it’s the thought that counts).
Create your writing calendar

This is a two part process. First, is to figure out what your goals are in what you’re working on. Are you writing your first novel? Then you might want to sketch out a calendar for when you’ll have steps done. Finish basic research by X date. Finish the first chapter by X date. Reach 60,000 words by X date. First draft by… you get the picture. Whatever those milestones are, write them out. That way you’ll see your progression, and deadlines, even when we make them for ourselves, can make us work just a little bit harder. Some writers choose a goal of a certain number of words per day or per week. Others use larger chunks, like a first draft in six months. Find what motivates you the most and use that. Put your goals where you can see them – tacked to the wall, on your computer desktop… I sometimes like to write mine on a whiteboard above my desk, that way I can erase them (or change them!) as I reach them.
Next, you need to figure out your weekly writing schedule. Put that into your work and personal calendar to block that time out. Let your partners and friends and children know you are unavailable during those times unless it’s an emergency. Obviously, sometimes things will come up you have to deal with, the dog needs to go to the vet, your child has a half day at school, you have to travel for work. But if you find yourself a consistent rhythm to your writing schedule, you are not only more likely to have more writing time, but you’ll use it better, because you’re prepared for it mentally. You know that from 6pm to 6:30pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you lock yourself in your writing room and crank out some work. 
For a lot of people, writing every day isn’t reasonable, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Find a schedule you can stick to – much better to write for an hour ever other day, than schedule writing daily and cancel every day because you’ve got to many other responsibilities. You don’t need a four hour block to be productive. Learn to get a lot accomplished in a short time because you are focused, instead of getting little accomplished in a long time because outside pressures are getting in the way. 
It can also help to make yourself a note at the end of a writing session about what you think happens next – that way, when you sit down a day or a week later, you can pick back up again, losing less momentum.
Since you learned last week that you have to let the inner critic go, you also know that you aren’t going to censor yourself during this time, you are going to get your words down on paper and worry about perfecting them later.
Unless you are in the rewrite phase, which you’ve got marked down on your list of goals, and scheduled in your calendar, so you know exactly when you want that polished draft done.

Scroll down for Part I

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.