Writing on Schedule

As I mentioned in “Harnessing the Unconscious,” Dorothea Brande claimed in her classic book Becoming a Writer that there were two distinct types of writing you must master if you hoped to have a career as an author.

Whether or not both are necessary is up for grabs. However, I do know that both types have been very helpful to my own writing, for different reasons.

Today’s post describes the second April writing challenge you can sign up for.

Last time we talked about early morning writing. This second challenge (“Writing on Schedule”) will entail learning to write at a designated moment in your day.

What Kind of Schedule?

First, this scheduled writing takes no longer than fifteen minutes. And all of you can find fifteen minutes at some point in your busy day. (If you want to write longer, you can. But the challenge is to commit to just fifteen minutes.)

Each morning look at your day’s demands, appointments, and activities. In this particular day, where is a time slot you could set aside for fifteen minutes of writing? We all have slivers of free time, even if it’s taken from our lunch break. Decide for yourself exactly when you will take that time to write today.

Commit at All Costs

Suppose you looked at your schedule and decided that four o’clock was the best time to write today. Then what? According to Dorothea Brande,

“Now this is very important, and can hardly be emphasized too strongly: you have decided to write at four o’clock, and at four o’clock write you must! No excuses can be given.”

Regardless of what you’re doing at four o’clock that day, you stop everything and write for your fifteen minutes. If you’re on the phone, at 3:55 you begin saying good-bye. Wind up what you’re doing and be writing at 4:00 sharp.

Set a timer, either a mechanical kitchen timer or a computer timer. Then write.

Write What?

You can write anything at all. Here are some things I’ve done during scheduled writing:

  • Stream-of-consciousness thoughts and nonsense
  • Plans for blog posts
  • Fragment of dialogue
  • Writing prompts to get started
  • Description of someone or something
  • Complaints and gripes
  • A scene from my work-in-progress

When to Schedule the Writing

Don’t choose the same time each day. Try different times of the morning and afternoon and evening. Try just after a meal, or just before. It’s important to choose a different hour from day to day.

“The important thing,” says Brande, “is that at the moment, on the dot of the moment, you are to be writing, and that you teach yourself that no excuse of any nature can be offered when the moment comes.”

In other words, you don’t hit four o’clock and think, What difference does it make if I finish this chore now and write at four-thirty? No! You make yourself stop, get to your desk on schedule, and write. Or if you think, I had no idea I’d have a headache this morning, just take an aspirin or make some herbal tea, but then get to your writing.

Look Out for Opposition!

This sounds like such an easy exercise as you read about it. And eventually it will become easy. However, says Brande,

“as you begin to put it into practice you will understand. There is a deep inner resistance to writing which is more likely to emerge at this point than in the earlier exercise…the unconscious does not like these rules and regulations…It prefers to choose its own occasions and to emerge as it likes.”

Persevere! Ignore all the little voices that tell you it doesn’t really matter when you write, or won’t matter if you skip it just this once. Push on doggedly. If you do this, Brande says the “unconscious will suddenly give in charmingly, and begin to write gracefully and well.” From experience, I have to agree.

Warming Up for April

Give the scheduled writing a try this week on your own. Try different times. See where your own personal resistance lies.

Then if you want to join this 30-day challenge, I’ll give you how-to instructions on Friday.

What appeals to you about this challenge? Do you think it would benefit you?

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12 Responses to Writing on Schedule

  1. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    I’m game…count me in! I am curious to see how I will respond to a “scheduled” writing time…rather than writing when the spirit moves me. I’m going to track it and see how I feel about it and respond to it.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Audrey, that’s a great idea, keeping notes about how you respond to this idea. It will be interesting to see if your feelings about it change as the month goes by, either getting easier or not. Good idea!

  2. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    I forgot to add that I am going to let myself write about anything I want. Then, I would like to compare my results to writing whenever I would like but only on a predetermined subject or project. In other words, I want to find out what parameters I respond best to…time or subject.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Sounds like you’ll have a good set of research results to study when you’re done! This kind of thing can be soooo helpful. Most of us don’t do enough thinking about how we work best. We should–because writers are definitely NOT a group of “once size fits all” people! :-)

  3. Deanna says:

    This challenge seems like a great way to train my mind to focus better. I’ve done a bit of scheduling with my editing duties and it really works. However, I’ve never put a specific time on my “one hour of editing.” So . . . I’m looking forward to making progress with this method. When you plan your day, do you usually determine what type of writing you will do during your scheduled time?

    • kwpadmin says:

      Yes, I usually know what type of writing I’m going to do that day. If I’m between books or in the planning-but-not-yet-writing stage of a book, I will use a book of writing prompts (A Writer’s Book of Days). But as long as I show up at the appointed time to write, I give myself freedom to write what I feel like. Sometimes it changes, but not that often.

  4. Fe says:

    Thanks for this! I look forward to your instructions on Friday! It would be nice to have accountability partners. I’ve been learning that what we do every day (habits) will determine where we’ll end up. :-) There’s a new book coming out in April that deals with habits. It’s called “Making Good Habits, Breaking Bad Habits” by Joyce Meyer. Anyways, thanks again.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Fe, I’ve been listening to her talk about habits on her website lately, and I bet that book will be a huge bestseller! We all need help and accountability! :-)

  5. Ann Schwarz says:

    This sounds like a great challenge for me, because it gives me the flexibility to work my writing in each day at different times. I’d love to sign up for the challenge.


    P.S. I don’t have a website, but I do have a blog.


  6. Marcia Wuest says:

    How do I sign up for this? I’m bummed I missed seeing this before it began, but would like to pick up from this point and move forward! Great idea!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Marcia, I debated about being able to pick up people in the middle of the month, and I decided against it. The four groups are full that started April 1, but I am thinking of running this opportunity again May 1, after people report in about its helpfulness to them (or lack thereof).

      But I will leave your note here in case anyone wants to contact you who missed the deadline too, and maybe you could have a private group this month.

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