One of the greatest advantages of self-employment as a writer is the flexibility of scheduling your time.
One of the greatest disadvantages in the business of writing is the flexibility of scheduling your time –especially if you’re a lenient boss.
A productive, successful writer must be diligent and self-disciplined. I’m neither by nature. To a degree, I have to treat my work as a writer the way many think of a job outside the home.
Get up, Get Ready for the Day
While many authors boast they love their job because they can write in their jammies if they like, I accomplish more if I shower and dress for work. Okay, I’ll admit my work clothes are more casual now than when I was teaching at the university, but getting up and dressed is an important first step. And speaking of steps, don’t forget to put on your shoes. I first learned this lesson from Maria Cilley. You may remember her as “The Fly Lady.” She wrote a home organization book called Sink Reflections several years ago. In it she reminds people working in their home to get dressed right down to their shoes every morning for a productive day. It is psychologically sound advice. It doesn’t matter if you’re cleaning a closet or cleaning up a manuscript. Get dressed.
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Set Your Work Hours
Setting hours of operation works best for me. I know many authors who do this. Author Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behind series shares in his books and workshops the power of setting a work schedule. Your hours have to fit your life. I write in the morning. If your best hours are after dinner in the evening, then make sure you don’t turn on the television. Go to work.
How long is your workday? I set my workday for two- three hours a day. Of course there are many days I put in overtime, but that is by choice. If I’m on a roll, I tend to forget the time. You may only have one or two slots of time devoted to writing during a week. If so, schedule that time as well.
I know people who do not schedule work hours. They set a word count goal for each day instead. I’ve tried the word count method –where it is not the time you spend in the office, but the number of words you produce each day. When I subscribe to that method, I start counting every word in a blog or an article or even social media marketing so I can reach my goal. The pressure is too great. I feel like I’m cheating if I report numbers outside of my novel. While word count works for some people, I write more and engage more in my novel when I simply go to work and write until my workday is over.
Get to Work on Time
When I was a teacher of young children, my students arrived at 9:00am. I was required to be at school by 8:30am. That half hour gave me the opportunity to make sure I was prepared for the day, review my goals for the day, research and prepare future lessons, or take care of any bookwork needed. The same holds true in writing. Once I arrive in my office, I need to review my writing goals for the day, turn on my computer, and check my email. When I check my email, I am checking for anything work related. Personal communications can wait until the end of my workday.
Then I write. And write. And write. That is the bulk of my typical day. If I am in the throes of revision, my day is focused on that. If my schedule requires a workday engaged in editing, so be it. You get the idea.
Closing Your Workday
At the end of your workday you need to allow time to set goals for the next day or sketch your plans for the week. Now is the time to engage in social media, market your book, or design that new business card you wanted to make. I find saving my social media for the end of the day keeps me from wasting my writing time. Social media can be a true drain.
Routine is a Powerful Writing Tool
Having a routine for writing helps you maintain focus and meet your goals. I know one writer who designates Monday as her day to market her books, work on her blog, and plan her week. She writes Tuesday through Friday for two uninterrupted hours every night. It works for her. (Although when I was a young mom her age, I could probably find two hours of uninterrupted time only after midnight!)
I’ve talked a lot in this post about the workday couched in a workweek. The truth is, if you are a new writer, you may not have the luxury of setting aside a few hours each day for your craft. That’s okay. Take on writing a your part-time job. Even if you only work two hours every Sunday afternoon, if you are consistent and protect that time as your work, you will be more productive than if you think about writing that great novel, talk about it at parties, or dream about that magical “someday” when you’ll have time to write.
Now, I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What works best for you and your writing? If you are still in the early stages, share your thoughts on how you can carve out a schedule to write. Sharing your schedule helps you commit to it. Let’s support each other in this! I look forward to reading your comments below.