4 Counter-Intuitive Benefits of Scheduling Your Writing Time

    scheduling your writing time

    I’m sure you’ve come across this piece of advice before – plenty of times: Scheduling your writing time is important. Block it out on your calendar, like any other appointment.

    In my earlier writing years, I rarely bothered. After successfully leaving my day job, I didn’t have many appointments in my calendar – one of the many benefits of working for myself! I wasn’t convinced that writing needed to be slotted into a specific time and place. Surely that would take all the joy out of it?

    Fast forward a few years, though, and I’m still working for myself – but I now have two young children and limited childcare. My fiction-writing is tightly scheduled. And, much to my surprise, I enjoy writing more than I used to.

    If you’re thinking of, or experimenting with, scheduling your writing time, I imagine your main goal is the same as mine: to get more writing done.

    Scheduling will certainly help you do that. (I managed to write more fiction during 2016 than in any other year, despite it being one of my busiest years yet.) It’s particularly crucial if you have a day job or caring responsibilities.

    But by blocking out specific times for your writing, you’ll likely get a whole host of other benefits too:

    #1: You’ll Feel More Inspired

    “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning.” – William Faulkner (attrib)

    If you sit down at the same time each day, or on the same days each week, in order to write … your brain will quickly get geared up to it. You’ll come to your writing session feeling ready to go; eager to get back in touch with your characters and imaginary world, or keen to dive back into your non-fiction book.

    Or if not …

    I write fiction from 5.10pm – 5.40pm: if I’ve had a hectic day, or the kids have been particularly hard work, then sometimes I feel wrung out. If you struggle with that too, give yourself permission to stop writing after 10 minutes. The important thing is that you start. (Chances are, you’ll quickly get into it and write for much longer.)

    #2: You’ll Look Forward to Writing

    In the midst of a busy day, spent on a lot of things you don’t really enjoy (chores, day job, listening to your three-year-old yell at you…), the prospect of half an hour’s writing can be a little like an oasis on the horizon!

    When you’ve scheduled writing in, you can look forward to it: guilt-free, because you’ve already made the choice about when you will and when you won’t be writing. Your writing time isn’t “stealing” you away from anything else; conversely, the chores you need to get through aren’t preventing you from writing.

    Or if not…

    If you find yourself dreading your upcoming writing time – perhaps it feels like yet another chore to fit in – then you might want to reconsider what you’re writing. Does it really grab you, or did you pick a genre or topic because you thought there’d be money in it? While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing for money, you can (and should!) try to find something you’d enjoy writing about for money.

    #3: You’ll Blast Through Your Preconceptions

    A few years ago, I was convinced that I couldn’t write well or happily in short sessions. I’d tried it before, writing 500 words on my novel at the start of each workday (this took me about 30 minutes). I always felt rushed – and yet I also felt like I was making painfully slow progress.

    Now, though, my 30-minute sessions work perfectly for me. I’ve even written in as little as 15-minute slots. Whatever your own preconceptions are about the conditions you need in order to write well, challenge them! You might just be surprised.

    Or if not…

    Don’t expect to change overnight. Perhaps you used to occasionally write for three hours on a Saturday afternoon and now you’ve shifted to writing for 20 minutes each lunch hour. It’s bound to feel a little odd at first; stick with it for at least a couple of weeks. If you’re still struggling after that, see if you can rearrange your schedule or environment a bit to involve better support.

    #4: You’ll Procrastinate Less

    Some degree of procrastination is very normal … but if you find yourself constantly getting distracted when you should be writing, you may find that scheduling is the answer. I used to think that scheduled sessions would be really tricky to stick to: what if I wasn’t in the mood to write? What if I was uninspired and needed to fill my “writing hour” with distractions?

    Chances are that you, like me, will find that it’s easier to stay focused when you’ve planned and scheduled your writing time. It’s easy then to say to yourself, “I have half an hour to write, and I am only going to write” (not check emails, tidy, wash dishes, etc…)

    Or if not…

    If you find yourself procrastinating and wasting time during writing sessions, do these two things:

    1. Turn off your internet connection.
    2. Set a timer for 15 minutes.

    For those 15 minutes, do nothing but write. As you get used to focusing solidly in this way, gradually increase to 30 or 45 minutes. Procrastination is very much a habit; the more you get used to focusing, the easier it’ll be!

    Do you have specific, non-negotiable time slots for your writing? If so, what benefits have you seen? And if not, what’s stopping you from giving it a try? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

    About the author

      Ali Luke

      Ali Luke’s free mini-ebooks Time to Write and The Two-Year Novel are for any writer who wants to fit in some extra writing (and enjoy it more)! You can download them here when you sign up to her weekly email newsletter – which includes writing tips, discounts, and more.

    • Thank you for the motivation. I am so sporadic when it comes to writing, thinking that I can’t get anything done if I don’t have at least an hour. I need to learn how to use small amounts of time to get at least something done. I appreciate everything you write about!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Nancy! I found it a tough transition at first, getting used to short bursts of writing — but once I adjusted, I found it much easier. And as you say, any writing at all is better than none!

    • Courtney Haywood says:

      It was like you could read my mind about taking time to write! Growing up it seemed I could not stop writing, and now it feels as though it is a chore. I am thankful for the tips you listed to help yourself ease into setting time aside, and helping so it isn’t such a big life change when you have a lot going on! I am not much of a morning person, so this will be wonderful going forward in making sure to put even 30 min. aside each night to get some of my writing (besides what is needed for class!) done. Great post, and thanks again!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks, Courtney! Good luck squeezing in that writing time. Some writers love evenings / late nights and though I’m definitely a morning person, I find evenings can be a good opportunity to relax and write. 🙂

    • Laszlo A. Voros says:

      You always make yourself the promise that you will set a time when you will sit down and write. Elmore Leonard says writer’s block doesn’t exist.
      You sit down and write. There is no such thins as waiting for inspiration.
      Well one thing is for sure. When you had a typewriter (like my much lamented Smith Corona Portable) there was no such thing as waiting for the computer to
      warm up. No buffering, no sudden crash dumps.
      No while it is true that it is a Godsend that when you’re writing something
      and you need to verify your information, you switch to the Internet and Walla!
      But then something catches your eye (like the Top Ten unexplained UFO pictures) and you look. Also there was something about hearing the clack clack of your typewriter as you watched the stack of papers growing next to it. You could see what Stephen King said a certain said “your novel gaining weight”. You could see by the amount of pages you filled how much work you did instead of calculating word counts. I have added the old typewriter sound to my computer when i write because it makes it sound more like your actually pounding out a novel.

      • Ali Luke says:

        I think a lot of writers feel nostalgic for the days of the typewriter! I wouldn’t want to do away with the internet — fantastic for research and for marketing — but I do tend to physically unplug my computer from the ‘net when I’m writing fiction. The fewer distractions, the better!

    • Mike says:

      Hello Ali,

      Thank you for the writing tips. Organizing time in your day is important to allow yourself time to write. Although, when tasks get moved around dynamically throughout the day, the following mantra always holds true as a back up — which is one that I follow:

      Write something everyday — no matter how long in length — just write something.

      That way, the next day, resuming your writing does not seem like an uphill battle.

      Again, thank you for the article. Have a great day!



      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks, Mike! What a great mantra to live (and write!) by. 🙂

    • Cat says:

      Thank you for this post – I especially love how you also address scenarios when the “ideal” version doesn’t work out. It felt very good to read your advice + motivated me to slot in some 10 minute bursts every day.

      I very much appreciate you sharing this with us all! x

      • Ali Luke says:

        I’m so glad this was helpful for you, Cat! I can be a bit of an idealist when making plans, only for them to collapse around me … I’m getting better at accepting things will never go quite as smoothly as I’d like, and working that into my plans!

      • Sharon says:

        I so agree, Cat! I love the “Or if not” suggestions because they point out where we’re going wrong so that we can understand what the real issue is instead of continuing to feel like we’ve failed. Motivating indeed! Thanks Ali!

    • William says:

      I started getting up at 5:00 am to write about two months ago. First I shower and dress in something that feels like work. Then I do my morning bible reading and prayer, and then it’s on to writing. I use the ad writer Gene Schwartz’s method of setting a timer for 33 minutes, 33 seconds. Then I do nothing but write (and drink coffee) for that time, and when the timer goes off, I’m done. I love it that no matter what else I do (or have to do) during the day, I know that I’ve done my writing. I do think I’d benefit by scheduling another session later during the day, but I haven’t done that yet.

      • Ali Luke says:

        What a great morning routine! I used to do my writing first thing, too; like you, I found it really rewarding to know that at least that was done, regardless of how the rest of the day went. These days, it’s trickier (my 2 year old tend to wake very early!) but I hope to get back to morning writing in the future.

      • Savannah says:

        Another morning writer here – I try to write for about an hour before work 3 days a week (I’m working up to 5 days, but sometimes that extra hour of sleep is just too tempting). It keeps me from procrastinating later in the day, and usually I find that I’m more inspired and motivated to keep writing in my free time later, as well.

        • Ali Luke says:

          I think starting the day on a positive note is always good … like you, I often feel more motivated later on when I’ve begun well!

    • >