I was a failure at keeping a schedule
For years, I tried to pick up a writing schedule. It lasted less than a week, and I was miserable. I’d write all the reasons I hated writing. I’d do free association. I’d draw frowny faces.
Most writing guides emphasized the importance of a fixed schedule. Write every single day. If I couldn’t carve out the time , the books gave me this advice: Try harder.
I thought I lacked willpower. I had to keep trying.
The story found me.
It was vivid. I had no control. If I didn’t write it. I’d never escape. It haunted me. I couldn’t sleep. I wrote over 3,000 words a day for two weeks. I fried my brain. I could barely type my name for three days. When I started up again,I failed at keeping a schedule.
I didn’t give up
This time I knew I could write thousands of words every day. I learned this:
Many writers advise scheduling the “right” way.
“Write every day” is on all of the writers’ forums. Posters suggest that if you can’t make time, you don’t really want to.
Many people try to scheduling the “right” way and fail.
I met people who wanted to write, but couldn’t find time. Maybe they didn’t want it badly enough. If this were true, why’d they feel so crushed when they failed? Why’d keep trying to write?
It’s not about willpower. It’s about ditching what’s not working.
These people get projects done
Every “failed” writer I’ve ever met gets one or two things done on a regular basis. They’ve been students and earned their diploma or degree. They have jobs and get the work done. It’s not their passion. They don’t feel a yeaning for bookkeeping, or data entry. If everyone needed divine inspiration, nobody would be working as a cashier. It’s a nice job, but who has a lifelong dream like that?
They work because if they didn’t, they’d get fired or flunk. If they fail figuring out how to get thigs done, they’ll try different things until something works.
Writing is a project
People believe writing is this sacred calling. You must be divinely inspired. Every word must be carefully selected as if revisions didn’t exist. You must write the story in order. You cannot skip chapters and go back later.
Writing is art. But the professional artists I know say their artwork as work. If they use their art as relaxation, they are a hobbyist. If you’re a professional, art is work and they treat it that way.
Some people require a rigid schedule to be successful. That’s how they work best. If hit your deadlines and the work is polished, nobody cares about your schedule.
When you begin, there are no deadlines. If nobody’s waiting for you, why get anything done? If you slack, who cares?
I made my own deadlines. Instead of a nebulous goal of finishing a novel, I made several short term goals. If I succeed, I didn’t punish myself. I’d figure what went wrong. I’d adjust the schedule until I succeeded.
My first schedule
Here’s first writing schedule:
- Work for 60 minutes a day
- Write 2000 words a week.
- First draft done June 1. (I finished April 28th!)
This sounds like the old fashioned way, but it’s not. When I work, I don’t just work on the manuscript for one hour. I give myself a variety of projects. People might think my projects are procrastinating, but it’s work.
- Search for tutorials about specific difficulties I’m having with he manuscript. I don’t browse the web looking for random advice. I keep a list of 3 – 5 specific issues I need to address. My very first question I needed answered was, “How rough should a rough draft be?” (Answer: Rough enough to get it done.)
- Search for images related to what I’m writing. I sometimes need to “see” what I was writing about before I can describe it. Usually, I’m looking for faces. I pin them on secret Pinterest boards. Whenever I need to focus on a character, I open the boards and study them.
- Test different apps to discover what works. Some people insist that a “real” writer should only need a text editor. I disagree. If you can wrangle around with a text editor, yay for you. If you can’t, keep looking until you find what works. I tried out several different apps before I found what works for me. It’s Ulysses. (It was 50% off and I had iTunes credit.)
- Writing the draft. As long as I met my word requirement, I could do this whenever I wanted during the week. Sometimes I’d do a little bit every day. Sometimes I crammed it all into one writing frenzy.
Browsing is a writing activity. I work a few minutes at a time all day. If I’m waiting for a prescription to get filled, I’ll browse and log those minutes. If my daughter is at grandma’s, I work on the draft all day. There’s no maximum limit. If can’t hit the goal, I’ll lower the weekly word count. If I rip through the word count in a few days, I’ll raise it.
I finally settled on 5000 words. I recently dropped down to 2000 because I’ve added blogging to my schedule. I spend a lot of time figuring out how apps work. I’ll post later about adding writing projects. Today, I wanted to show you how I started. If you’re struggling to gettp into the writing habit the old way, try this instead. If this doesn’t work, try something different.
If you succeed your writing goals, what works for you?