Having the desire to write but feeling like you don't have the time is a motivation killer. That project you want to finish weighs on your mind. The longer it sits there, the more you feel like getting around to it is impossible.
I've finished projects even when facing time and energy-sucking situations, such as having a job in retail. Currently I'm working a more stable office job, but even so, fitting in time to write can take some ingenuity. So here I'm sharing four writing schedules that can fit into your life, even if you are crazy busy. Yet, all four of these schedules share the three essentials: a set time, a set location, and goals to strive for.
If your current writing routine isn't working, it's likely missing one of these three elements.
Time: Having a set time for each writing session means making consistent progress on your projects.
Location: For each session have in mind where you are going to be and what tools you are going to use. Make sure your tools are ready when your writing time comes around. No uncharged devices or dry ink pens.
Goal: For each writing session, have a goal. If you use a story outline, you can decide how many scenes or plot points you plan to cover for your session. If you don't outline, decide how many words or pages you would like to write for your session.
It's tempting to use time as a goal, such as, "I plan to write for 10 minutes today." But I've found that using time as a goal separates me from seeing big-picture progress on my projects. When I know how many plot points I plan to cover, I know how much more I will need to do to see the end of it all. If I only focus on writing for a set amount of time, I can't see how far down the road I've traveled and how much further I need to go to reach my destination. So in short, set goals related to making noticeable progress on your writing.
Now with the essentials covered, here are some flexible schedules that can help you get moving on your writing projects even if you're busy. Note that with all these schedules, you can adjust the time limits to what best fits your life. There's no shame if your sessions can only be for 5 minutes. That's better than nothing.
1. Write Before Breakfast
The book Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory inspired this schedule.
As I mentioned, I used to work in retail, and my schedule was all over the place. The only thing that stayed the same was that I never had to come into work before 8 AM. I was working on my novella, The Blue Room Cafe, at the time. So every morning after waking up, I would write for 15 to 20 minutes before breakfast. I did this every day, even on days when didn't I work. As a result, I finished writing the draft of the novella in about three months.
Writing for 15 to 20 minutes before breakfast is the simplest schedule on this list. It allows you to write before the distractions of the day start rolling in. It's easy to keep writing at the same location and have your writing tools waiting for you. Also, it's productive because it's possible to write every day without interruption.
Setting goals is the key to getting short writing sessions to work. I had an outline of my story, so I was able to check off each event as I went. Another helpful thing I did was to always end my writing session mid-sentence. By creating the feeling that my writing wasn't done, I had more motivation when I returned to it the next day.
Try Writing Before Breakfast if: You feel like life is getting in the way of your writing. You have an erratic daily schedule. You rarely have a full hour in the day to write.
2. Write Like You're Taking Meds
This schedule is from The Writer's Space by Eric Maisel.
I cover this in more detail in my post How to Build a Productive Writing Routine. This is like Writing Before Breakfast except that instead of having one writing session of 10 to 20 minutes, you have four throughout the day: 8 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM, 8 PM.
I tried this schedule when I was taking my weekend writing retreat. I enjoyed it so much, that I kept using a month after my retreat was over. If you write for 10 minutes four times a day, that's 40 minutes. If you made each session 15 minutes, you can write for a whole hour in a day. And since sessions are short, that means most of that writing will be focused writing.
Try Writing Like You're Taking Meds: If you desire to have more time to write, but lack a consecutive chunk of time to devote to it. You have a hard time focusing for an hour-long writing session.
3. Sustainable Writing
This schedule is inspired by Sustainable Creativity by Michael Nobbs. I cover this book in more detail in my post Simplicity is the Reduction of Choice.
What I like about this method is that it takes that fantasy of what the writing life should be like and condenses it into a practical amount of time. If you imagine yourself as that writer who drinks tea and coffee out in nature with the muse, then this schedule will fulfill those desires while keeping you productive.
The timing of this session is like a mini-Pomodoro: 10 minutes of writing, a 5-minute break, 10 more minutes of writing, and then a reward to wrap up the session. The minutes of writing can be reduced or increased depending on your needs. If you have a tight schedule, it's best to only add one or two minutes to the writing segments and test it out for a week to see if it's the right fit. The beauty of this schedule is in the 5-minute break and the reward at the end.
The 5-minute break allows you to take a mental rest between writing sprints. You can go outside for a walk or do a short burst of exercise. You could even sit in your chair and do nothing, meditating on the last words that you let drip onto the page.
After taking your break and wrapping up the second writing sprint, reward yourself for completing the writing session. It doesn't matter if you reached your goal or not. The simpler the reward, the better.
Some things that I use for rewards: fancy tea, coffee, chocolates, doing a facial mask, enjoying cake in a mug, and Pinterest time. Before each writing session, it's helpful to have what you are going to reward yourself with in mind. This method helps you to reach your writing goals and feel good while doing it. This is what I currently use for writing.
Try Sustainable Writing if: You need to create motivation and joy for writing in a short time. You have low energy.
4. The 10 Day Draft
This schedule is from The 10 Day Draft by Lewis Jorstad.
The 10 Day Draft method involves picking ten days to focus on writing. They can be 10 days in a row, 10 days in a month or 10 days over 10 weeks. Pick days that are free of major events. For this method, you must have your writing goals in order. If you are a person who uses an outline, have your outline together and divided by scenes or plot points. Then count how many plot points you have and divide that number by 10. That will be your goal of plot points to cover for each writing day.
If you don't use a detailed outline, have a word count goal in mind. For example, if you want to write a novel, shoot for 50,000 words. Then divide that by 10. That's 5,000 words for each writing day. Depending on your speed, that can be around two hours of writing. The tricky thing about word count goals is that it's hard to predict how many words a story will go on for. So if you wrap up the story before 50,000 words, then you can use those extra scheduled days for something else. If you go over, you may need to increase your total word count goal to keep yourself motivated to finish the story.
After deciding which 10 days to use for writing, pick two extra "mercy" days. These are days you can use to catch up if you fall behind, but Jorstad recommends to save those days for emergencies only. I will be shifting to this method next week. With my current schedule, I have at least one day a week with enough free hours for this to work, and I want to finish my novel. If I have one set writing day per week and meet my goals, I will finish the draft of my novel in 2 1/2 months.
If you're an outline-free writer, read The 10 Day Draft, because it covers how each day can advance the story.
Try the 10 Day Draft if: You have 10 days over the next month or two with two or more hours available for writing. You only have the weekends or days off from work to write your story. You want to get your story done.
Mix it Up
None of these methods have to stand alone. They can mix and match with each other.
For example, a writer can plan to use the 10 Day Draft method. For their planned writing day, they can decide to write for 30 minutes at 8 AM, 12 PM, 4 PM, and 8 PM. That's 2 hours of writing. If they struggle with writing at 8 PM, they can do a mini-Pomodoro and write for 15 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and then write for another 15 minutes. Then they can reward themselves for finishing the last writing session for the day. There are many ways to create a schedule that works.
Need Help Creating Your Writing Schedule?
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I am aiming to help other writers to
- Discover a flexible, realistic writing schedule ⏰
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These courses will give you the tools to be a balanced productive writer and leave you feeling connected to your unique writing voice.
If you're interested in one of these free workshops, please message me via my contact page.
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So if you want to save yourself hours of frustration and are ready to illuminate your writing life, please shoot me a message or comment below 🙂