How to stick to a writing schedule at busy times of year
Birthdays, holidays, and that thing that’s just around the corner – Christmas – all distract us from getting things done. Amidst the mayhem it’s helpful to have a writing schedule that you actually stick to.
And to do this, it has to be a writing schedule that suits you.
Find out what works for you
If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ll know how you work best. But if you’re just starting out, experiment with your writing routine. Try writing before you head to work, after dinner, with music on, in total silence, until you find an environment that suits how you work. This is vital for being able to sustain a writing schedule, particularly at busier times of year.
Why not listen to Stephen King’s advice on keeping the door closed when drafting:
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
In order to keep coming back to that desk/kitchen table/bed to write, it must be a comfortable environment to produce some fruitful output. With the endless Christmas jingles, increasing social dates and lengthening shopping list, you’ll definitely appreciate a little place for you to escape to and write.
Create a manageable writing schedule
The more manageable and flexible you make the schedule, the easier it will be to stick to. You may well have to take your usual schedule and tweak it to account for a busier period of time. Accept that you might not get as much done as normal and create a routine with that in mind. If you make it too challenging, you may well fall out of love with the writing itself.
Life gets in the way. There are presents to wrap, things to book and gatherings to organise. Don’t diligently stick to your word count target each day if you can’t. You can always make up the total another day. Go by a weekly word count target, rather than a daily one if that helps. This means if you only write 200 words one day, you can make it up on a day with more free time. Don’t feel guilty about missing the word goal! A flexible writing schedule will help this.
Use a diary or calendar
Mark in a diary where the available times to write are. Some writers use a traffic light system to note potential creative slots. Red is for things you simply cannot avoid (last-minute Christmas shopping, hosting New Year’s drinks), Orange is for events that can be re-scheduled (possible coffee with a friend, buying the Christmas tree) and Green for definite free spaces of time to be reserved for writing.
Protect those Green areas – they are set in stone.
Another useful tip is to jot this all down on the communal calendar. That way, your family/flatmates will know the times you want to be left alone to write.
Recognise the signs
One of the main tricks to sticking to a writing schedule is acknowledging when you’re not handling the workload and adjusting accordingly.
If it’s a struggle to keep up with the routine you’ve outlined, it might be that your writing schedule is just too challenging. You don’t want to get to the stage where you’re dreading looking at the calendar because writing has become a chore.
If this is the case, you simply have to strip down your schedule. Half the amount of writing slots, or break them up into more manageable chunks that fit around your busy life. Trial it and see if this works better.
Keep it enjoyable
Additionally, you need to give yourself rewards. Motivate yourself by setting yourself targets with a prize if you accomplish them. This might be a trip to the cinema, a mince pie, or celebrating with friends. It will make all the hard work worth it.
(for more tips on keeping motivated during the writing process, click here.)
It’s crucial that writing remains a fun task. If you aren’t enjoying it, you won’t stick to a regular writing schedule and you won’t write that book. Or, you might, but it will be begrudgingly and take a very long time.
Remind yourself of the reason you decided to begin writing this story in the first place. Were you inspired by the protagonist? Is the book dedicated to someone who means a lot to you? Or, perhaps, different scenarios kept popping into your head every day? Whatever the initial drive was, re-ignite your passion for it.
The key to sticking to a writing schedule during busier times of the year is to plan it out in advance. Identify times that are available for you to write and guard them like an eagle. And remember, if you’re finding it too challenging, change it.
How do you keep to a writing routine during busy times of the year?