It’s already been established that the only thing you need to do in order to be a writer is write.
But it’s not always that easy.
Because if you have a fulltime job, and you’ve been writing for a while and it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere, it can be easy to allow yourself to be enveloped by the soft folds of Netflix and call it research.
I’ve already mentioned in this post that it’s ok to not have time to blog. If you have eight kids and work 100 hours a week, you’re free to go. Come find me when the kids have grown up.
For the rest of us, it’s largely a matter of carving out some time, getting off the sofa and sliding in front of the computer.
What are your writing goals?
I know, I know, you want to be able to retire with millions in the bank in approx. three weeks. Don’t we all.
But we’re going to need to some more, er, down to earth goals. Just to get us off the starting blocks.
Do you want to publish every day on Medium? Start your own blog? Pick up an abandoned blog? Write a ten-book fantasy saga?
Whatever it is, it’s cool.
It’s useful to decide on a timeframe, especially when you’re writing fiction because otherwise, you’ll be writing the same book for years. Been there.
Still am there.
Give yourself a year to write your book, and then plan to start book 2 next year, regardless of whether you’ve finished book 1.
Just keep writing.
There’s no rule saying you can be finishing book 1 whilst writing book 2. In fact, I think the lack of rules is both the best and worst thing about writing.
If you don’t know how your book’s going to end, I’d advise giving that a bit of thought before plunging in.
If you don’t know what’s happening in chapter 15 now, do you think you’ll be any better equipped to write about it when you’re either groggy from sleep or knackered from work? Besides, you can always change it.
Perfect planning prevents poor performance.
You need to create a beginning and an end, otherwise, you’ll never get the damn thing finished.
How productive do you want to be?
Then think about how much free time you have, and how much you want to get done.
Oh, and how hard you want to work.
I’m not really an advocate of writing every day. Because I’m one of those people that can do something every day for three months, miss a day, and then somehow miss the next year.
So I tend to consider both time allotted and the number of articles I want to write.
Because I tend to write for an hour and a half four day a week, then an additional eight hours split over two days. The final day (Sunday) is my free day. Unless I haven’t finished whatever I was meant to.
Annoyingly, it’s almost impossible to tell how long it’ll take to write an article until you’re actually writing it. Some days I can knock out a post in 45 minutes, other days it takes me all day to write 2000 words.
The lure of a potential day off gives me the kick up the arse to get writing.
Is it because I hate writing? No, I love it.
But I love doing nothing at all more (and engaging in my favourite Sunday activity — buying house plants).
If you want to write every day, go for it. But it’s a myth that only ‘proper writers’ write every day. If I write for 24 hours straight but only every 7 days you bet your bum I’m going to call myself a proper writer. The benefit of blogging platforms is that you can schedule content so it looks like you’re active every day.
Where the hell was this going?
How to actually schedule writing time
Get yourself a notebook or diary, and write out your schedule for the week.
Schedule when you get up, go to bed, have dinner, work, exercise, read, drink coffee.
Don’t say you’re going to get up at 5 am or go to bed at midnight if you don’t normally.
Take a good hard look at your schedule. If there’s no wiggle room for writing on a workday, accept that and move on. You may have to resign your weekends to writing.
But there probably is some space. Say you get up at 7 and work 9–5. Plan to be home and fed by 9. Write from 9–10, then go to bed.
If you’re more of a morning person, get up at half 6, have your coffee, then write for half an hour before work. If you don’t think you can knock out a blog post in half an hour, you need to read this post on prepping your blog posts.
It’s not ideal, but ideal will come later, when you’ve paid your dues and can write whilst sipping woos woos by the pool in Maui.
What we’re doing here is forming a habit.
My point is, it can be done. It’s uncomfortable whilst you get into the swing of it, but it’s worth it. If only because you’ll feel better having made the effort.
Will it definitely mean you’ll become the next Stephen King? Ooo I wouldn’t open that can of worms. When you’re writing a few words of your novel at 7 am I advise only positive thoughts.
If you find yourself worrying about never finding an agent or never getting enough traffic then stop them in their tracks.
Think about Maui, or staying in your jim jams all day, or being at the top of the best-seller list. You’ll certainly not get there if you don’t get the words down in the first place.
You may need to give something up
You don’t have time for everything. The reason you write may indeed be that you want to quit your job so you can fit everything in.
I’m currently on a hiatus from running. I have an active job and walk 20 minutes to and from work, so it’s not a big issue.
Running was a big procrastination tool for me.
Since it’s viewed as a ‘good’ activity and I can’t write and run at the same time it served as a great excuse.
If I want to run, I have to give something else up — an hour in bed, or an hour reading in the morning. Currently it’s January, and that’s highly unlikely to happen, but when the day’s get longer, maybe I’ll get out my trainers.
You need to be adaptable
Schedules change all the time, which is why I like to plan what I’m going to write weekly. I do a daily schedule, but there’s always Sunday to catch up.
Decide in advance how you’re going to tackle holidays and time away — are you going to pre-schedule content, write more of your novel the week before, or just take time off?
There’s no right answer (which is a blessing and a curse). You have to experiment to find the right balance for you.