Be Productive By Ali Luke 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: Turn off your internet connection. 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.