Develop a routine that works
Published: February 8, 2006
|You've dreamed of writing for a long time, and now you're determined to find the time to make that dream come true. Developing a schedule, however, may be more difficult than you anticipated. You may have kids, a house, job, carpool duties ... the list is long and endless. Writing, unfortunately, often gets pushed to the side. One missed day turns into two, then a week, then a month. Before you know it, that writing routine has gone the way of New Year's resolutions and you're left feeling creatively frustrated.|
As a mom of two and a full-time writer, I can sympathize. I've also created a few strategies for a writing schedule that works:
Have your space ready
Find a corner of the house or a room to designate as your writing space. If you don't have space for a desk, set up a portable one with a lap desk. The point is to create a space uniquely yours that gets you in the writing mood every time you visit it. Stock it with great pens, paper and inspirational books.
Know your peak time
Some of us are at our perkiest in the morning, others after a late-day nap. Whatever time is best for you, try to set that up as your writing time. For many years, I got up two hours earlier than the rest of the house so I could have the uninterrupted hours I needed. I still find early morning is my best creative time.
You should aim for a regular amount of time each day--at least half an hour, if you can swing it--to start building your writing muscles. If you have a full-time job and can't block out hours of time, then fit in what you can when you can. Write for 15 minutes before you get ready in the morning, or slip in a few minutes while you wait for dinner to finish cooking, or set half your lunch hour aside to write. Those snippets of time will add up, and you'll find you can discipline yourself to write, even in short bursts.
See how small steps can add up to big projects For many new writers staring at that first blank page, the thought of an entire 400-page manuscript is overwhelming. If you wrote one page a day for a year, though, you'd have 365 pages. That's nearly an entire novel. It can be done, if you break it down into achievable goals you can.
Once you've set up your routine, there will be those inevitable disruptions, whether it's a sick family member, a rush work project or a school delay. Instead of being annoyed, look at it as an opportunity to get creative with your writing routine. Recently, after I missed my morning writing time, I wound up writing on my portable word processor at a coffee shop instead of at home. The break from my routine was a treat--like I was playing hooky.
Be serious--but reward yourself
You're your own boss. There probably isn't going to be anyone breathing down your neck to make sure you get your writing done. Surround yourself with things that motivate you, and when you complete a big project, give yourself a nice reward.
Don't beat yourself up
If you miss a day or get off your routine once or twice, don't be too hard on yourself. Tomorrow is another day; treat it as such. Get up, get started again, and know your writing space is there, just waiting for you.
Veteran freelancer Shirley Jump of Fort Wayne, Ind., also writes romantic comedies and is the author of How to Publish Your Articles.
Coming up: "What do you want to write?
--Posted Feb. 8, 2006