How to develop an effective writing schedule

Diary Organiser

Ask any group of people what their ideal career is and the chances are at least one of them would say some kind of writer. Whether they want to be a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, travel writer, food critic, or whatever, writing and making a living from it is a seductive dream.

So why aren’t they living the dream?

It may be that their writing skills are not up to scratch. Or they may claim not to have the time, or fear rejection too much to ever submit any of their work to publishers. Or they may say that their head is full of ideas, but when they sit down to write, their mind goes completely blank.

All of these are genuine challenges, but they can all be overcome with one simple change in attitude. If the dream of making a living from writing is ever to become a reality, you have to make the decision to make it happen, and commit to the work.

To paraphrase the bible: with commitment, all things are possible.

Having decided that a writing career is to be more than just a dream, you have to treat it like a job. If you said to your boss, “I’d quite like to work for you, but I don’t really know what to do.” He would tell you to go away and learn the skills. If you told him, “I’d like to work for you but I’m not sure I have the time, I’ll drop by whenever I can,” what would you expect him to say?

Writing is no different. You work for yourself, sure, but you have to be your own boss, and set time commitments. Yes, you might be a lenient and understanding boss who allows time off for family emergencies, but if you want to get your writing career off the ground, you have to expect to make that time up later on.

You have to have a writing schedule, and stick to it the same as you turn up for work every day between set hours. Follow these simple steps to identify the time available and make the most of it:

  • Use a diary or time planner just for your writing.
  • On a weekly basis, block out the time you have to work, including travel time.
  • Also block out other commitments, such as household chores, dental and medical appointments, and anything else that is unavoidable and will take your attention away from your writing business.
  • Now allocate your writing time. Schedule it in just like any other commitment. If you need to make other people aware, mark this writing time down on your family calendar, or stick a copy of your schedule on the fridge if necessary.

Now you have your writing time allocated, make sure you stick to it. Even if the first few sessions you suffer from writer’s block and just end up sitting in front of your computer in a panic, make the effort to sit there. Open your word processor, and not an Internet browser. Write.

If you are unsure what to write, start typing: “I want to be a writer but…” and just keep going until your time is up.
It doesn’t matter how disjointed and unintelligible your first outpourings are, what matters is that you are building up the discipline to sit down at your allotted time and write. You may find certain times of the day or night are better for you, and start habitually keeping those times clear, or you may find you have to fit around other people and your writing times vary from one week to the next. None of that matters provided you allocate a reasonably consistent amount of time each week, and just sit down and write during those times.

How do you improve? Read back what you have written after each session and ask yourself if it is of publishable standard. Putting the content to one side, how is the spelling, grammar and punctuation? If you need to improve here, take a class or borrow a few books from the local library.

How is your writing style? Work on developing your voice, and eliminating the “I” from your writing if you want to write for magazines or newspapers. Learn to express yourself in the third person, and learn how to back your opinions up with facts.

Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times, and when an idea for an article presents itself, make a note, so that when you sit down to write, you have ideas to write about.

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