How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a three-part series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.
As promised, this second installment will continue the discussion on scheduling.
First, determine how many days a week you will be working. I tend to be a little biased in this area and want to say that, as a writer, you’re always working—even at that Saturday tailgate, you’re observing what drunk people do or sound like (or what it feels like to be drunk—ha!).
If being as anal as I am about scheduling isn’t up your alley, another thing I like to do that might seem less insane less daunting than scheduling every minute of your day is to designate certain days for certain things. (If you are especially Type A, however, you can actually do this in conjunction with the scheduling outlined in the previous post. I find it works best for me to do it that way.)
As you get more assignments, develop more ideas, and take on more projects, you will need to come up with a strategy for your labors, which goes beyond the hour-by-hour schedule. That said, even if you aren’t freelancing and, therefore, only have one manuscript on the fire, there are a few different kinds of things you can be doing in order to keep from wanting to set your manuscript ablaze.
How many types of days are there?
As I said, this kind of depends on you. If you’ve got several projects in the works, you might have more “types of days” than someone who is only working on one novel manuscript; however, here are the basics.
The most obvious (and essential) is the writing day, and you’ll most likely want to schedule the most time for that. I like to schedule three consecutive writing days so that I can ride a creativity wave if I’m on a roll.
But, Ricki, I’ve heard that you’re not really a writer if you’re not writing every single day.
Ugh! I could argue for and against this. The freelancer probably needs to write every single day—just varying the type of writing or type of project. However, the lone novel writer might go a little mad if he doesn’t break away from his manuscript at least one or two days a week. Wherever you fall, just make sure to give yourself breaks from the actual writing so you don’t get into a funk.
Where was I? Ah, yes. In addition to the actual writing, it is also important that you brainstorm, read books in your genre, make time to research, and do writing exercises. For example, you might schedule Wednesdays and Fridays as reading days, where you go to the library or set up camp at your local Barnes & Noble and thumb through the latest John Green or Lauren Myracle novel (guilty!). If you’re a serious writer, you will also want to work on enhancing your platform by doing things like blogging, etc.
Not only are all these activities essential to being a good writer, but making time to do these things will help break up your work week and keep your mind fresh for those days that—oh yeah—you hammer out 1500 words.
Crap—I’m forgetting something.
Some of you may be saying, this all works out fine and dandy if you don’t have kids or if you are well enough off that you have hired a cleaning lady, but I don’t have either of those luxuries!
Duh. I don’t either.
While a three-year-old beagle isn’t the same as a three-year-old child, I am not without responsibilities throughout my day. And yeah, no cleaning staff. Even though writing is my passion and the cogs are pretty much cranking 24/7, I have to schedule in things like grocery shopping, laundry, walking/feeding the dog, working out, and eating—otherwise, none of those very important things would ever get done. On those housework days, take care of the laundry/dishes/groceries/cleaning/pay bills/etc., and don’t worry that you aren’t working on that book proposal. You’re sticking to your schedule and making progress. Check and check.
For my workaholics who feel guilty if not dedicating all their waking hours to writing, take some solace in this: It turns out, a lot of these non-writing-related activities are great times to brainstorm, work out those plot details, or figure out characterization. As well, there’s always the chance that you’ll finish your chores early and discover you now have extra time to run to your keyboard.
All that being said, remember to be flexible.
Ha—that sounds like an oxymoron after discussing how important it is to structure your time (and after looking at the ways I’ve suggested one can do this!), but even I give myself options because what if I don’t feel like writing that day? It happens.
Flexibility is important because something will always come up; that’s just how life works. You might get a mega-important e-mail you have to answer right now or an editor wants you to overhaul a chapter, and you’re forced to write on—gasp—housework day!
My current schedule looks like this:
Housework – OR – Research/Reading Day
Housework (if not Sun) – Blog – In to Write
Out to Write
Out to Write – Blog
In to Write – OR – Research/Reading Day
Blog – Research/Reading Day
The beauty of all this is, it’s up to you. The more you have on your plate, the more likely you’ll need to combine kinds of days and create a more stringent schedule that sets time limits for each of your endeavors. Just get something down on paper and try some things. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and then tailor your schedule to fit your life.