Writing Schedules – Finding Time

Writing Calendar

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We’re all here to improve our writing, and most of us spend the majority of our hours each day doing something other than writing. We carve writing time out of corners and lost sleep.

We write stealthily at desks on our lunch breaks and sneaking time throughout the day.

We write frantically while watching the clock during naptime, trading folded laundry or a scrubbed toilet for a couple hundred more words.

We write with laptops on the couch at night, relinquishing the remote and falling into the world unfolding under our fingertips.

Schedule time to write. The advice seems simple in a way that makes sense, simple enough to make me take it seriously this winter as I felt overwhelmed with the different projects filling my planner.

Schedule time to write. During the holidays, I evaluated priorities and tidily mapped out a writing schedule, one that balanced my priorities in a workable manner.

Schedule time to write. One of the cornerstones of my writing schedule involves getting up before dawn to run, so that I can spend my evenings with my laptop, my plot notes, and my editorial schedule.

Armed with my lavender Flair written notes, I sat down to write this post. I was skipping through fields of daisies, hand-in-hand with my writing schedule. My to-do list was manageable; my highlighters were being used to colorfully cross off completed tasks.

Then January 9th happened.

My children tag-teamed for a night of almost constant wake-ups, culminating with my crying toddler clutching my arm as my alarm pinged at me mockingly, as though I’d been sleeping. I missed my morning workout.

A copy editing assignment came in, always welcome, but threatening to dominate my planned writing time that evening.

After midnight, temples pounding, my scheduled two hours of writing loomed, untouched, in front of me. I contemplated staying up later, producing tired, disjointed material, just to keep my schedule highlighted.

I couldn’t publish a glowing endorsement of my writing schedule when I was shifting things around nine days into my plan.

Despite the missed two hours of writing, my writing schedule is already shaping my writing path for the year. It’s a visual representation of where I need to focus my energies.

Previously, after missing a night of writing, I would find myself meandering around, visiting Twitter, going over notes, scribbling edits on unimportant projects.

Having a physical writing schedule meant on January 10th, I had a specific plan for the evening. I could see what I missed the night before and  slide things around to make them fit, albeit raggedly, stealing time during the day to read and comment on blogs so I could write during the evening time I had allotted for catching up with blogs.

Doubt still nudges at my colored pens, protesting that a prescribed schedule could hinder creativity, stifling the freedom to just sit down and let words flow.

In a few weeks or months, I may lay down my highlighters in defeat, my schedule trampled by too many days like January 9th. Middle of the night scrambling and copious caffeine may again become my norm.

But tonight, I look to my schedule, glance at the clock, and cross another thing off my to-do list.

Do you have a writing schedule?  What do you do when it falls off the tracks?

32 Responses to Writing Schedules – Finding Time
  1. Nancy
    January 12, 2012 | 5:21 am

    Love this. A year ago, I woke up early to write. And it was so good for how I tackled the rest of the day. I had achieved something—and I had my words done.

    I miss those quiet mornings, although I am finding my words somehow. Or they find me and scream to be unleashed.

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 7:14 am

      I now have this image of a bunch of little letters, on legs, chasing you around the house, jumping into the laundry.

      There’s something immensely satisfying about getting something done before the rest of the world awakes. That sounds smug, doesn’t it? Ooops.

  2. Vinobaby
    January 12, 2012 | 6:23 am

    Creating a firm writing schedule is one of my goals for 2012. It was supposed to start this past Monday, when the kids went back to school. Of course, life threw me some major curve balls, and I’ve put it off until next week. There will never be enough time, enough quiet, to adhere to it every day, I know.

    Priorities. Focus. Strength. Commitment. ~just a few things I need to work on

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 7:17 am

      Let’s do this together. I also tend to underestimate the time I need for things. (10 – 15 miutes to check e-mail turns into 30, etc.)

  3. Kathleen Basi
    January 12, 2012 | 6:37 am

    “Do you have a writing schedule? What do you do when it falls off the tracks?”

    I have four children six and under, so it falls off the tracks daily. Sometimes hourly. What do I do? Adjust. Accept that life happens, and keep writing as a priority so that it doesn’t just disappear.

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 7:19 am

      Yes, adjust. Having the schedule is actually helping me to adjust better, instead of just throwing up my hands and turning on old episodes of House Hunters on HGTV…

  4. Marie
    January 12, 2012 | 7:12 am

    My obstacles are different. With no outside job and no children at my feet, I could easily spend all day writing, less four or five hours each day of “farm work” and would love to, but often get lost in reading instead, especially blogs. Writing in a more focused manner, with fewer distractions, is a goal of mine this year. As is writing something outside of my blog.

    Great article! Best wishes with your schedule aspirations, and don;t sweat the copious caffeine. I don’t.

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 7:25 am

      Thank you for permission to roll around in my vat of coffee. I need it most days :)

      I can see how having a stretched out amount of free time would also be tough, in terms of getting things done. You feel like you have more time, so it’s easy to get distracted.

      Good luck this year!

  5. Jen Has A Pen
    January 12, 2012 | 7:58 am

    Not having children, I often feel my excuses are less than others. I used to write first thing in the morning, then evolved to very late at night. Now, I’m all over the place. Having a schedule would certainly help my production numbers. Managing running and writing? You are my idol. :-)

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 2:14 pm

      I don’t know. Kids are a time suck, but people without kids often have other hobbies/friendships that take just as much time. I think we tend to fill the hours we have, no matter what our responsibilities.

      I shouldn’t be your idol. I scrambled to get all of us out of the door this morning and justified that since I was planning an evening workout, I might as well just wait to take a shower until then…

  6. HonestConvoGal a/k/a Amy
    January 12, 2012 | 8:04 am

    I find that I am at my best at 5 a.m.–that’s right– 5 a.m. There is something about the silence and aloneness of that hour. I often awake at 4:45 ready to hit the page. And sometimes write for an hour or more and go back to bed until my youngest wakes me back up at 7. It works for me…

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 2:15 pm

      That must be a blissful moment-falling into bed for a little cat nap after knowing that you’ve gotten some quality writing time in for the day! Good for you for knowing what works for you and to work it into your schedule.

  7. Latitudes of a Day
    January 12, 2012 | 9:06 am

    Failure is a given in life. It is how one learns. Giving up and giving into distraction and throwing self-discipline out, that is something different. It isn’t the defeat that matters; it is how one recovers that makes all the difference. I’ve yet to write a plan or schedule that I’ve managed to keep. Life happens. Plans change.

    Kathleen Basi’s point is the essence of keeping ones writing goal or any goal in perspective:
    “…keep writing as a priority so that it doesn’t just disappear.”

    • idiosyncraticeye
      January 12, 2012 | 12:18 pm

      What a positive attitude towards failure! I wish I could see it so bravely. I just seize the moments as they strike at the moment. :)

      • angela
        January 12, 2012 | 2:05 pm

        Making the most of the moment is important, too!

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 2:03 pm

      Plans definitely change! I am finding that the structure of the plan is helping to keep me on track, even if I’m not following it exactly. It’s making me more conscious of how I spend my time, and that has to be a good thing :)

  8. Lance
    January 12, 2012 | 9:36 am

    My schedule is….I have no schedule. I have notebooks and pencils in my car, at my daughters’ judo classes, cheerleading practices and games, and waiting to pick them up from their respective buses/afterschool programs.

    I write during my favorite teams’ football games on television. I write on my front porch steps watching my girls play with their friends.

    There’s a notebook next to my bed. My wife has caught me writing at 3am, in the bathroom.

    These robots, female rocker, and antecdotes about my women aren’t going to be produced at a desk with plenty of time for contemplation.

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 2:06 pm

      Stealing time, one robot at a time, huh? I sometimes wonder what would happen if I DID have chunks of time, a calm environment, perfectly warm coffee beside me. Would I even be able to produce anything?

  9. Barbara @ derbus
    January 12, 2012 | 10:04 am

    “Do you have a writing schedule? What do you do when it falls off the tracks?”

    My commitment, right now, is to write for one hour a day, in the evenings from 7-8pm. It is a manageable time, no where as long as I would like to write. But it leaves time for eating dinner with the family and hanging out with the spouse in the evenings.

    Three 5am mornings are for running… but soon, I am hoping to add two more hour-long sessions on my off-running days.

    So, bit by bit, I continue to grow my schedule and track my writing hours daily.

    I am focusing on building the routine – - creating extra hours from the cramped days will have to come later!

    :)

    I know that the routine will pay off and that tracking keeps me honest (thanks Nanowrimo!)

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 2:16 pm

      I like the idea of adding writing time during non-running days. I should think about doing that!

      Good luck :) (Isn’t it funny how that Nanowrimo graph really made a difference?)

  10. Kir
    January 12, 2012 | 12:09 pm

    I just write whenever I can. Like today, I had finished so many things this week and was all ready to re work the “WEDDING” for Kimmy and David and get it ready for tomorrow…adding the “ending” for now….and my email for WORK exploded…2 offices went down, more emails..more training over the phone and now all I want to do is go home and go to sleep. I hope to write a little in the car tonight on the way home…my fingers are crossed for that since when I get home The RANGERS on tonight, so I have to be a mom and no computer time….

    I need a clone, a nanny and a nap these days. But thank goodness for my notebook in my purse, my “Sticky notes” app on my phone and my imgination…I”ll get there one of these days. :)

    this was a great article Ang…I’m glad that I’m not the only one that gets “sidetracked” …at least I feel normal now. :)

    • angela
      January 12, 2012 | 2:10 pm

      Sometimes I think sidetracked IS my new track :) I hope you get some writing in on your commute tonight. Sometimes the best things bubble out when there’s not a lot of time to get them there. xo

  11. Tomekha
    January 12, 2012 | 5:56 pm

    I write every morning before I start my day. I get to work an hour and a half early and use that time to write and catch up social networking. …what I need a schedule for is to read and comment on blogs and to reply to comments on my own blog – I’ve been seriously lagging there.

    • angela
      January 13, 2012 | 6:38 pm

      Yes, I had to work time in for that (commenting/responding.) It’s so easy to get behind with that!

  12. Barbara S.
    January 12, 2012 | 6:11 pm

    I’ve been trying to work out a schedule for the past 20 years! Just when I get one down, something happens that forces me to scrap it and try again. Right now I’m trying to get to it first thing in the morning.

    • angela
      January 13, 2012 | 6:38 pm

      Giggling a little, because that’s going to be me. My kids will be in college, and I’ll still be trying to figure out what works for me!

  13. Tricia
    January 13, 2012 | 2:57 am

    Love this. I have a very loose writing schedule. It could use some more structure but it does, often, keep me going. The important part is, as you wrote, to not let the misses or skips in the schedule define you. One missed day does not a failed schedule make!

  14. Rebekah C
    January 13, 2012 | 8:24 am

    I love this idea. The only problem is that it never seems to work for me. That “middle of the night scrambling and copious caffeine” norm you mentions is totally me!

    Try as I might it’s hard to make allowances for writing in my busy day as it’s something that only I appreciate. It’s hard for me to make it a priority when there are people depending on me for the other priorities in my life. I’m sure you can relate and maybe I’ll give the schedule a try again.

    I’m curious, though: does your husband fully support your “down time” being your writing time?

  15. JD @ Honest Mom
    January 15, 2012 | 6:36 am

    My writing schedule is evolving as we speak. I work two days a week, so those are work writing days. Sunday mornings are turning into time to comment on other blogs. Tuesdays during my preschooler’s rest time and Thursdays during my 5yo’s dance class: blog writing time. I tweet and facebook daily, whenever I can steal some moments.

    But it changes. I have a big presentation at work on Wednesday so I am working Tuesday, too. Sometimes Sophia won’t rest and I have to get up early to write the next day instead. I try to be disciplined, yet flexible.

  16. San
    January 15, 2012 | 11:54 am

    I’ve never been one for schedules but I’m hoping that I can change that this year. I’ve been doing so much writing that I really do need to keep the momentum up otherwise I splutter and eventually die off for the month. I find I work best in the morning but I’m most creative and seem to finally have the time at night. Sadly, by that point though, I’m exhausted. So, instead, I try to block off Sunday to play catch up but you can guess how that works out…

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