Scheduling for Success

At the beginning of the year I made this big resolution about writing an average of a thousand words per day. At first things went well. Throughout the month of January I met and exceeded my goal on a daily basis.

But then February got here and something changed. I started writing fewer words in the day. On most days I barely limped past the five hundred mark.

I started to get worried. Was my initial success simply the result of beginners fever? Was I starting to burn out after only half the year was up?

I kept trying to make appointments for myself to write each day, but in spite of having ample time to complete my goals, my wordcount consisted mainly of blog posts and little else. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was starting to doubt my resolve as a writer.

But something more specific had changed between the months of January and February: my wife had moved up to working an earlier shift that required her to get up sometime around five forty-five. Before that change, I had been waking up somewhere around five thirty and writing till she got up somewhere around seven.

After she started working the early shift, I started telling myself that I would write, “sometime this morning.” I set plenty of word goals, and from time to time I met them, but it never felt the same. I found myself frittering away my time with twitter and other online distractions.

And then I read a blog post by Katie Lyn Branson, about the importance of scheduling your writing time, and the light bulb finally came on for me.

It wasn’t that I was lazy, or uninterested in writing. Well, okay, I am a little lazy. But the difference in my output was affected by how I thought about my time. During January my morning writing had a specific starting point and a specific ending point. It wasn’t something I had consciously set up for myself, that was just how it all worked out. February was far less structured.

I realized I needed a schedule. I needed a time limit in which I would say, “Albert, you will write for x amount of time and do nothing else. Then you can quit.”

So yesterday I tried it. It worked beautifully. I wrote to 2,445 words with breaking a sweat and finished off one of the short stories I had started earlier in the month.

If I’d simply set myself a word goal of almost 2,500 words for the day, you can bet I would have poked around on the internet for a while, felt guilty about it, and then tried to come back to my writing, only to crank out a measly thousand words or so. But the schedule worked like magic.

Why? Two words: quitting time. Do not get me wrong, I like writing as much as the next guy, but even so, it can be hard work. It was so good to be able to look back at my writing and say, “Well, that was a good output for today,” and go and watch the Nostalgia Critic without guilt.

In other words, I was able to use the internet as a reward, instead of using it as a reason not to write.

Maybe you’re in the same boat I am. Maybe you’re not writing nearly as much as you’d like to be. Instead of making more and more wordcount goals for yourself, try scheduling instead. Tell yourself, “I will do nothing but write for a whole hour.” You may surprise yourself with what is possible.

12 responses to “Scheduling for Success

  1. Good that you found something which works for you. Though I wouldn’t call 1,000 words per day “measly.” 😉 At the beginning of the year I set a goal of 700+ words of my new novel per day in addition to my other writing and research projects, and I am lucky it’s working out for me. I guess it depends on the quality of the writing, and how much editing you ultimately have to do. Good luck with your new system!

    • Well, I’ve been writing for quite a while now. I remember when a thousand words was a good day, and two thousand was absolutely phenomenal. It’s more about what I know I can do, than any particular wordcount. If you’re only comfortable with 700 words a day, that’s fine, but you’ll probably feel crummy if you slip back down to 400. It’s all relative.

      • lol I’m not “only comfortable with 700 words a day.” I write at least 700 on my novel every day, and often an additional 700+ on my other writing projects per day. My novel is the only project guided by a daily word count. 🙂

  2. Awesome that the scheduling worked for you! I’m like you, if I give myself a word count goal I would get lazy and then realize I have some writing to do and try to finish it at the 11th hour. I like the scheduling thing a lot better!

  3. I started the year off with a 1,000 words per day count towards my novel. It went well for a couple weeks before I dove headfirst into the shallow pool of freelance writing. Damn novel’s been on hiatus for about a month now. But such is life.

    RE Growing wordcounts: My personal trainer buddy has a saying on his gym’s wall, “My short run used to be my long run.” Just a few words of inspiration.

  4. There’s nothing like setting a word count goal and missing it to make you feel miserable.

  5. What a great writing plan, and very on par with what Kristen Lamb talked about in her blog today. It’s like you guys planned it or something…conspiring together to force all of us who social network too much and don’t write enough to use that as a reward for writing rather than a hindrance. Either way, thank you!

    • I promise it was a complete coincidence. I really thought Kristen’s post was more about teamwork in the arena of social networking though. She did make some points that were a little similar to mine though.
      If I had my post up first does that mean I get to claim she copied me? 😀

  6. This one gives me an idea. I’m at a loss with my writing focus since I seem to have a two-minute attention span. Thanks, Albert.

  7. That is excellent that your scheduling ended up with you finishing up one of your short stories. I’m impressed. I seriously think scheduling my time to type will help me as well, it’s just, who knows when I will get around to that. Me with the procrastination and all.

    I’m also impressed with your goal of 1000 words a day.

  8. selenablakeauthor

    This might be just the thing I need to try. I use write or die to get my word count in. But as you mentioned, without a specific time, it’s easy to put off writing time and before you know it it’s 9pm and you haven’t started writing yet.

  9. Pingback: Manon Eileen - a Writer's Blog » Blog Mashup Sunday - Manon Eileen - a Writer's Blog

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