If you didn’t catch one of yesterday’s articles about Building a Sustainable Practice, you might want to, so that you understand where I am coming from in writing this month’s series of articles about the writing life.
In summation, I want to equip you with the skills to build a thriving writing business or practice. Whether you’re a hobby writer or professional writer, no matter what stage you are at, this article is geared toward getting you into a daily writing practice.
Before you click away from this article because you believe you could never find the time to dedicate to writing every day, HALT!
I want to make something clear to you and everyone else reading this article, a daily writing practice does not have to consist of writing X amount of words every day.
I’ll repeat that just in case you think you misread it:
A daily writing practice does not have to consist of writing X amount of words every day.
A daily writing practice just needs you to commit to consciously thinking about your writing on a consistent schedule.
And there in lies the secret of most high output content creators and writers, they are constantly thinking and experimenting with their form so they never run out of ideas or projects.
You might not be there yet, but by the end of this article, you’ll be well on your way.
Finding the Time
If you’ve read any of my previous posts about writing or business, then you know that I like to use my own personal experience to help guide you onto your path.
For me, finding the perfect time for me to write takes, well, time.
When I first started out leaning into my writing life and business, I didn’t know where to start when setting up a writing schedule. At the time, I was still working in retail and didn’t drive so spent a majority of the day on the bus.
In my mind, I thought I truly didn’t have the time, so I read about writers and their schedules. Most writers, as you know, I am sure, have an early riser mindset and tend to tote getting up before the sun as the best way to start getting into writing.
Well, I worked at K-Mart doing ad set and store set-up, meaning I was one of the lucky retail elves that spent their early morning hours from 4am-11am inside a locked store changing over displays so that customers could know what the latest thing on sale was.
I had no early morning hours to give. Unless I wanted to wake up at 1:30am to get started. And before you throw out some writer like Octavia Butler who got up that early to write before work and life began, I’m not Octavia Butler.
You’re not Octavia Butler or any other writer, so what worked for them is not what is going to work for you.
Young me didn’t want K-Mart to stop my writing dreams from ever coming to fruition, so I buckled down and took a look at my life and schedule. I needed to find the areas in my life where I could cut to make time and where I could stack to add time.
Cutting Time to Make Time
Cutting time is easy. Find the things you don’t really need to do and ask if they are serving your writing or self in a fundamentally positive way.
This is similar to the spark joy method, except writing isn’t always going to spark you with joy, so it isn’t about what makes you happy, but what makes you better.
Here’s a downloadable template that you can use to help you figure out where throughout your week you can cut time.
Using the template, think consciously about each action you do throughout the week. Write down whenever you feel as though you are doing something that is not benefiting you or those around you. You’ll be surprised at the areas you’ll find where you can make just a little bit of room for your writing.
For me, it took a while to really learn where to cut in my life, but when I did, I cut out the drinking and partying. I did it still back then, but not as much as I previously did.
If you could come back to this article after doing this and tell me of your results, I’d be super excited to see your success and cheer you on.
Stacking Time to Add Time
The idea of stacking isn’t new to anyone who is a productivity hound and is always looking for ways to group task together. But what we are going to do is slightly different.
Once you have an idea of the areas in your life that you can cut and make room for your writing projects, I want you to think about the things in your life that you can’t cut, but that don’t engage the learning or creative side of your brain that much.
Think cooking, cleaning, bathing, exercise, down-time, etc. All those things that you have to do, but that don’t really engage mentally with.
You can use any spare space on the Cutting Time Template to write down these tasks. After you have gathered them all, think of things you could do during those tasks that would help with your writing pursuits.
Personally, when I was starting out back in those K-Mart days, I found that my bus rides and work time were where I could stack. I started listening to podcasts and reading on the bus all with the deliberate intention of getting better.
In fact, I still do both of these methods, but stacking time has been the best thing that has ever happened to my writing schedule. Now, I have a car and work from home so I use my cooking and cleaning times for listening to craft podcasts and audio books that are geared toward leveling me up a few notches in my career.
Creating the Schedule
Now that you know where in your life you can cut time and stack it, it’s time to begin actually sketching out your schedule.
If you are just starting out writing and haven’t really worked up your writing muscles yet, start slow.
Like I mentioned in the introduction of this article, not everyday needs to be dedicated to actually putting words down on a page. What I did when I first started out was make two days in my week for writing. I’d caution you to do the same, but as long as you have one day on your schedule for your writing it is an amazing start.
Pick the day that you have the most time available to sit and get into your story.
If you are an old hand at this writing thing and you’re just here to get an idea of new ways to design your schedule, I have the same advice. Pick whichever days you have the most time free and designate those your writing days.
Of course, don’t listen to this if your schedule doesn’t really have huge caps of time. Maybe your writing day is going to be once a month or a weekend out of the month.
Write your schedule in the way that is going to work best for you and your life.
I’ve created a template for you to use to start designing your writing schedule. You can include the amount of time you want to spend on each activity you put into the daily slots.
Sunday is not included in the schedule because I want you to use the first of after you go through your week abiding by your writing schedule to reflect on your week and what you have learned.
If you weren’t able to accomplish one of your tasks, strive to understand why. Look at your own choices and excuses to determine what is truly holding you back during those moments.
Is it fear of failure? Unaware of where to start?
Learn what is keeping you from accomplishing your creative projects and focus on conquering that personal hurdle before coming back and restarting this tutorial.
I sorta tricked you, I know. This article is more about determining what is keeping you from setting the perfect writing schedule. Because that is really what is holding you back.
It is not the lack of time. It is the lack of understanding the deeper workings of yourself and what things inside are keeping you from achieving the things you want.
There are really only two things you can do to carve out the time you need to build a perfect schedule for writing that works for you:
Gut the activities that do not better you, those around you.
Do things while you’re doing menial tasks that contribute to your creative effort.
Those two things can only be accomplished by realizing that you are the controller behind the wheel. You decide what you put your efforts into. When you find that no matter what you can’t devote time or energy to what you are passionate about, it is because something under the surface is stopping.
Finding out what holds you back and work on remedying it, so that you can live the creative life you want.
Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer. Her work has appeared in Arsenika, Terraform, Rue Morgue, and more. She was listed on the honors list for the Otherwise Fellowship award for 2019. She also writes or edits for Strange Horizons, Nightlight Horror Podcast, Oly Arts, Discover Pods, and more.