The Scheduling Habit

Getting into the writing habit is difficult, especially in the early years of writing. We aren’t making much money at it, so it’s hard to justify taking the time.

Our lives are full to overflowing already, so where can we possibly fit in some writing? How can we form a consistent writing habit when our schedules change from day to day, depending on our obligations?

School is out now, for one thing, which affects you parents and us grandparents who babysit. Schedules that worked during the school year will have to be adjusted. And summers often bring events like vacations, out-of-town visitors, swimming lessons, and Bible school.

Every minute is spoken for! (Or…is it?)

Going on a Time Hunt

Believe it or not, you have more time to write than you think. Keep a time log, tracking how you spend your time for a few days or a week. If you do, you’ll spot “down” time that you use for other things which could be snagged for your writing.

It might be ten minutes while you wait for a ball game to start, or half an hour waiting in the car during swim lessons, or fifteen minutes while you stand at the stove and stir. It might be an hour while kids watch a DVD or play in the backyard.

You may not have more than fifteen minutes at a time to yourself, but those bits can add up during the day–if your mind-set is to take advantage of those writing bits of time.

Redirect Your Time

When my kids were very young, I desperately wanted to write. I realized that instead of catching up on laundry and chores during their afternoon naps, I could write. Instead of making beds and doing dishes during the morning half hour of “Mr. Rogers,” I could write. Instead of thumbing through ragged magazines for twenty minutes every Friday afternoon while my daughter got her allergy shots, I could write.

Bed making and dishes and laundry could be done while little ones milled around and talked to me. I chose to write instead when they didn’t need me. That “nap-Mr. Rogers-allergy shot” schedule became my writing routine until my youngest went to kindergarten. By that time, Atheneum had published my first five middle grade novels.

Hidden Time for Scheduling

“But I really don’t have any free time!” you might truly think. I challenge you to study your schedule very closely. Everyone has pockets of “down” time during the day.

It may vary from day to day, but usually it is consistent weekly. For example, you may sit in the pick-up line at your daughter’s elementary school every afternoon for fifteen minutes. Instead of listening to the radio, write.

You might free up some time by doubling up on your mindless activities. Most of us multi-tasked before the word became popular, but if you’re not, try it. While supper is cooking, don’t watch the news; pay those bills or wrap those birthday gifts, and free up a half hour in the evening to write.

If you want to write YA novels, listen to those young adult books on tape while you walk your dog. You’ll be doing your “market research” for an hour, freeing up an hour later to write.

Get It in Writing

Write down whatever pockets of time that you discover can be used for your writing. Even if it’s only fifteen-minute chunks, note them. You can write an amazing amount in ten or fifteen minutes at a time–and it adds up.

You may find these chunks in the “between times.” You might have a bit of time between when the kids get on the school bus and you have to leave for work. Or between your day job and supper, you may have half an hour that you wait on a child at ball practice. (I wrote a lot sitting in bleachers waiting for children at practice.)

Write all these pockets of time down on a weekly schedule and write it on your daily calendar. Make it a habit. Perhaps on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you write half an hour before work, plus daily you write fifteen minutes before cooking supper, and Saturday morning you write an hour while the kids watch cartoons. That’s four hours of writing in a week, just in the free bits and pieces. Since many of us started writing while caring for small children and/or holding down a day job, this kind of weekly schedule may be the best you can do for a while.

And that’s fine!

Time-Honored Tradition

The highest percentage of today’s famous, best-selling authors admit that their writing schedules were exactly like this in the early years. But they had that “burning desire to write.” And that desire is what motivates us to find those pockets of time, give them to our writing, schedule it daily, and follow through.

You can find time to write, whether it’s early morning, during your noon hour, late at night, during commutes, or in catch-as-catch-can bits throughout the day. You must integrate writing into your existing routine for it to work.

Schedules make writing a habit, which in turn makes it a permanent part of your lifestyle. Can you think of even ONE bit of unused time during your day that you could spend writing? Please do share your ideas!

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4 Responses to The Scheduling Habit

  1. Vijaya says:

    A perfect reminder as I re-adjust to a summer routine that I don’t have yet … thank you! I am still in awe of all you accomplished with little ones. And it was so wonderful to meet you in person. I shall always treasure this time together, all your sharing and wisdom, and laughter.

  2. Jennifer Rathe says:

    I know some extra time that I could use. Those mindless five minutes here and there checking facebook.

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