Monday, September 12, 2016

Time Keeps Ticking Away

I used to think real writers wrote every day, all day, beginning in the wee hours and writing until midnight. If that were the case, I knew I’d never be a real writer.

When I joined a few email and Facebook groups, I realized real writers were also real people. They dealt with families that needed them, financial woes, job losses, weddings and reunions, serious illness, and ordinary interruptions to their schedules. In short, they were normal. As Patsy Clairmont said many years ago, “Normal is just a setting on your dryer.”

I knew I needed a schedule, though, or I’d have no way to track my writing goals. One author I know divided her days into half-hour segments and filled in each one for at least a month in advance. She’s far more determined than I am, so I’m hoping it works for her, but I’d be tearing my hair out in a couple of days. Unless I scheduled a lot of half-hour daydream times and breaks.

Another author rises at 5:00 AM every school day to write before her children need her. Again, this is not an option for me. I can only open one eye at a time at five o’clock. I’ve tried 6:00 AM, but my head keeps falling onto the computer keyboard and the results are unacceptable even as first drafts.

What to do? First of all, I need to accept the fact that working at home has its risks. There will be interruptions and distractions. But it’s much more affordable than renting space somewhere else and driving there each day. I’m trying to learn flexibility.

Secondly, I can’t necessarily fit into your writing schedule. We are diverse in our abilities, our energy levels, our personal situations. What works for you will probably not work for me.

But we can share our work schedule ideas and tweak them to suit.

Here are a few of mine in no special order:

- I try to remember to surrender my writing time to the Lord daily and ask Him for guidance
- I practice thinking of my writing time as high priority; it’s the work God has give me to do
- I plan ahead, at least the night before, or better yet, a week or month ahead (I often write my own blogs a few months at a time so I can focus on writing and editing my fiction)
- I list all my writing projects on a whiteboard, with columns to track my progress
- I forgive myself when I’ve taken too many days off (family reunion, Christmas, vacation…)
- I start again when I’ve failed to meet my own deadlines (I’ve moved to indie publishing)
- I try to think of my boss as God, not me
- I’m working on pushing social media down on the scale of first things to do at my computer
- I’ve decided that I won’t keep up with all social media or marketing skills, and that’s okay

What are some of your favorite tips for scheduling your writing time? I’d love to read them below.


  1. Janice, as you outline we all have to work out our individual schedules with the Lord. He will guide us. And wonderful that you've placed Him so prominently in your outlook.

    In our busy lives taking an unexpected opportunity (a sudden opening in the schedule) to write some words even a few, can be beneficial. I've found power in the turning up frequently, even if it's only to write a few words.

    1. That's great, Ian. I have to confess I have trouble using the short bits of time wisely as pertains to my writing. But there's always hope for improvement, right?

  2. I really like the schedule that suits you, Jan. I wouldn't use a whiteboard but I can see its benefits. And yes Living with all the various relationships that are important to a is a must. And with the overall knowledge that God is in control does give one peace. Anyway congrats on your indie publishing step.

  3. I've used various methods. At the moment, I'm using lists -- a weekly one then broken down into daily bits. For now, it's keeping me on track -- and I do build in coffee breaks, time with friends breaks and walk in the park breaks. That's the only way the system will work for me.

    1. I love lists for jobs in the house or on the yard, but I need to be more faithful to writing lists. So easily distracted. I think I'll give the lists for writing another try. Have to learn how much time to allot for various projects and phases, and that only happens with practice.

  4. I am with you about not doing early mornings! I saw one writer who got up at 4am. If I was to do that, I'd need to be in bed before the kids!

    I'm finding that a writing routine is about as easy to establish as a routine for a newborn: easy in principle, when you read the books, but difficult to impossible in practice because I can't budget for when others will need my time. And my family has to come first.

    1. You've got that right, Iola. You'd think it would be easier once the kids are grown, but even now, I am distracted by family and friends and non-writing projects. I always struggle with treating my writing as a real job, because others don't and I'm a people-pleaser. But, as I commented earlier, a person can always start fresh, try again.

  5. Janice, great post! I've found I've moved through different seasons of writing that require different schedules. Now that my day job is taking up more of my time, I've decided to 'write to time' rather than 'write to product'. I now allocate X number of hours per day for writing, rather than writing until the product is finished eg. daily word count goal. This will slow my productivity but it will improve my overall life balance.