Why I Do My Creative Writing First & Why You Might Not Need To

Here’s what I do when I’m functioning at my best as a writer — and thus, in many ways, as a human being: I write as early in the day as possible and BEFORE I do anything with social media or email.

At this time of year, my morning schedule goes this way:

  • Wake at 5am.
  • Let dogs out, make coffee, wash eggs, prep P’s lunch, let dogs in, feed dogs.
  • Read for 20–30 minutes while enjoying coffee.
  • Feed goats, big dogs, and chickens.
  • Open my office. Open computer. Close everything by Word. Write 1,500 words.

In the coming weeks, those last two will flipflop since daylight will arrive later and later in the day.

Why This Schedule Works For Me

My goal in this schedule is to get my writing done before I have an communication with another live human being, even my husband.

I need this system because as soon as I begin reading emails or checking comments on Facebook or talking with Philip about what we need to do tonight or that doctor’s appointment or the fencing for the greenhouse, I have just given my best energy to other concerns, and I have invited those concerns into the space that my book needs to hold.

It’s too easy for me to let writing slip away if I see other things that need tending in the day. So I just don’t let myself see those things until the writing is done. So far, the world hasn’t ended, but it did feel like it might (and I only exaggerate slightly here) when I first began this practice.

Why This Schedule Might Not Work For You

Not everyone can write first thing in the morning. That’s just the truth, no matter what some writing experts say. For some of us, small children come calling as soon as they hear us up. For some of us, a work schedule has us working all night and needing to sleep in the day. For some of us, our best energy just doesn’t come in the morning.

I’m not here to tell you that you need to write when I do. Nope, not my deal.

3 Things From My Schedule That Might Help You With Yours

First thing may not be your thing, but maybe these three pieces of my schedule will help you with yours:

  1. Try writing at the beginning of one part of your day. There’s something about doing this work first — in some fashion — that helps keep it a priority; it prevents it from being subsumed by chores or other things. So think about doing 500 words of writing before you turn on the TV after the littles are in bed, or set some boundaries around a half-hour right after everyone in your house has eaten dinner. Consider using the first part of your lunch break to write for 20 minutes, or consider rising early on Saturday mornings to write for two hours before you do anything else.
  2. Create separation around your writing time. Give yourself space to transition from one part of your day into your writing time. Let your mind relax and refocus. Give your heart time to settle in. Maybe you can build in 10 minutes of walking before writing. Or you read for a few minutes. Maybe you close a bedroom door and do a five-minute prayer or meditation. Maybe you have an office — or a designated chair — that is kept just as you like it for writing. These spaces — both in time and place — can help you begin to transition into writing from the rest of your day.
  3. Schedule it and honor that schedule. Many, many writers are very resistant to the idea of a schedule, sometimes because of the way their lives work and sometimes because of the idea that writing needs to be spur of the moment. But I will say that those writers who schedule time to write are FAR MORE effective at getting to the page and staying at it than those who don’t. So put it on your calendar — 30 minutes Monday-Thursday nights or 7–11am on Saturdays. If you create the space for it and honor that space, you’ll be much less likely to let other things crowd out that loosely imagined writing pocket that you never stitched a boundary around.

You don’t need to have a writing schedule like mine or anyone else’s for that matter. You need the writing process and practice that works for you. But maybe these little tips will help you create that space and time to get your words on the page. I hope so.

When do you write? Do you find it simple or difficult to take that writing time? What helps you hold that space? What gets in the way?


Originally published at andilit.com on August 31, 2016.