Monday, March 8, 2010

Writing Schedule: How To Create and Manage Yours

Note: This time I'm inverting the order, so instead of babbling about my personal experience in the beginning, I'm showing you the good stuff first. Then I get to babble, heh.

So, when thinking about a writing schedule, first and foremost we should ask ourselves:

Why Having a Writing Schedule, And Why Not Having One?

What's the use of a writing schedule? Well, the obvious objective is organization.

"Why would I want to be organized? I'm a creative person, I have a naturally chaotic mind," you say.

Well, when we organize ourselves we're less susceptible to distractions, we tend to focus on the task ahead, increasing our productivity and allowing us to do more in less time.

Besides, there's the sense of accomplishment when finishing an assignment or a deadline -- without hair pulling and churning stomaches, that is.

"Ok, you've convinced me. What do I have to do?"

Oh, wait, before rushing into making yourself a schedule, you should consider if it's a good thing for you at all.

"Now you're contradicting yourself!" you say, frowning.

Yeah, in a way I am... You see, there are people who don't feel comfortable with assignments, even if they were the ones to assign the tasks!

I, for instance, like organization, but I always thought that a writing schedule would stifle my creativity, that I'd feel imprisoned. Incredibly enough, setting up and following a writing schedule felt liberating.

"How?" you ask.

Well, I made myself a flexible schedule. Stick around for a while and you'll learn how make a writing schedule that works for you. :)

Weekly Schedule

"Why make a weekly schedule? It takes several months to write a book!"

True, but months are composed of days and weeks, and by breaking a month into smaller periods of time you'll be able to manage your time better.

So, the weekly schedule would be good to help you setting aside some time for your writing activities...

  • writing (duh), editing;
  • researching;
  • submitting finished stuff;
  • networking, which includes blogging (writing your posts, reading other people's posts, and commenting), visiting friends on facebook, linkedin and other social network sites like twitter, etc;
  • marketing, which comprises some of the above plus participating on conventions and other events, organizing physical marketing material, etc.
... in a way that will not compromise your daily life; you know, those mundane activities:
  • cleaning up;
  • taking the kids to and from school;
  • walking the dog;
  • breathing;
So, how do you do it?

Well, start with making two lists, much like the ones above: one for the writing activities, and another for the mundane activities.

Now put them together in a time table more or less like this:

early morning
late night
obs: *

* "obs" stands for observations.

"But how exactly do I do it?" you ask me, "You gave me a blank template!"

Yes I did. You see, each person should create a schedule that fits better her necessities. That's why I called it a flexible schedule. But I understand why you feel lost, so here's how I mixed my writing and mundane activities in a table like the one above.

I'm much more productive at night, so instead of opening a line for early mornings, I left only line one for the whole morning, which activity was 'ZzzzzZzz'. (yes, sleeping, heh)

So, for the afternoons I've set time for the mundane activities, like cleaning the house, walking the dogs, etc. This was my personal choice, because the afternoons are the less productive periods of the day for me, so that's when I do things that don't demand mental effort.

I've also prepared myself to have teaching sessions in the afternoons and early nights. (Yup, in case you're wondering, teaching languages is my so-called day job.)

As the sun sets, this night owl's brain starts to wake up. So, the nights and late nights are the crucial part of my schedule, where I've put my writing activities and planning lessons.

Inspired by Kathleen Duey's example (aka @kdueykduey), who shared a simplified version of her schedule on #LitChat, I've decided to set aside two nights to visit other people's blogs, leave comments, chat freely on twitter, and connect with people on social network sites. (She has a different program, in case you're wondering.)

I've chosen two twitter chats to participate in, on regular basis: #Litchat (M-W-F at 4pm EST) and #writechat (Sun at 3pm EST), which on my time zone are 10pm and 9pm respectively.

Also, Sunday is the day I've dedicated to preparing the week's lessons, besides the #writechat time.

All remaining time I've left to the writing activities, with one exception. My whole Saturday was meant to be a resting day.

"Are you insane? Do nothing for a whole day? I could never do that!"

Well, if you don't mind me saying, maybe you should. It's very important to rest your mind and body for a whole day (a weekend would be even better), as you'll be able to resume your crazy routine with a refreshed and relaxed mind. Your productivity will increase significantly, I assure you! :)

Now, it's obvious that for a writer an important "writing" activity is reading. So, you can kill two rabbits at once by reading something useful for your work in your resting day. ;)

But I'd warn you against reading things that are not meant to give a kick at your inspiration. That is, if you have to take notes, read with critical eyes etc, it'd be better allocating this activity on a normal working day.

Finally, you may have noticed that I've created an "obs" line, for observations. I've chosen two days of the week in which I'd forbidden myself having any contact with social networking sites. Since the most distracting of them all is naturally twitter, where I've met so many good friends, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I've put a big "No Twitter" on my writing schedule, just in case I got tempted to say hi, heh.

To summarize, my (nocturne) writing schedule would be like this: 1 x 2 x3 (preparing lessons, networking, writing, respectively), besides the free day.

Monthly and Yearly Schedules

Now that you have your daily routine organized, it's time to decide what you're going to do with your writing time.

This is the moment you'll evaluate all your projects, ongoing and future, and determine which is/are your main focus.

For that, you'll need reflect upon an important skill:


Riight, we all get to snort now. (if you haven't yet, that is, heh)

If you're published, or are about to be, the first thing to consider is your deadlines.

Now, if you're a freelance writer, you probably have many assignments, so I'd suggest you make a list of them before considering the ideas below to prioritize them: (in no particular order)
  • Which projects you're most fond of, and thus you feel more like writing at the moment?
  • Of those, which do you think would be more viable commercially? (if that's something you ever consider in regard of your writing, that is)
  • If time is an issue (as it usually is), which project will take less effort to finish?
So, if you put the deadlines, your mood, your view of the market, and the effort factor in a big bowl, mix and cook them in wood fire (like the old witches did) you'll have an almost instant writing schedule, with priorities set an all, heh.

So, why don't you tell me, do you have a writing schedule already? How did you set it up? Are you finding easy follow it, or hard? Did you find this post useful? Do you have doubts about my suggestions? You have something to add maybe? Go ahead, ask away or share your thoughts on the comments! :)

Final note: Here's where I found all the pictures used in this post: messy desk, neat desk, writing, breathing (I recommend reading the article that comes with the picture), sticky guy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Uh, oh! Randomities Won the Sweetest Award!

The lovely Anne Tyler Lord, from the wonderfully helpful Don't Fence Me In, sent me this sweet award. Thanks so much Anne, you're a sweetheart!

Err, there's so much "sweet" in this post that I suddenly have an urge to eat something... guess what? Sweet! Hey, do you have a chocolate to spare? lol

Right, I'm supposed to tell you ten things about myself upon acceptance of the award. But since I already babble a lot about myself in most posts, may I refer you to this post, in which I'm a bald faced (but ineffective) liar, and this other one where I tell you some truths about myself you might find amusing?

Finally, I'd like to pass this award to the other Mari-girl Marisa Birns, from the entertaining Out of Order Alice. She's a doll! You'll understand why if you check out her delightful comments on every blog she visits. No wonder Marisa is one of the Randomities' best pals. (see widget on the side bar ;)

Ah, yes, if you don't understand the Mari-girl thing, pop on twitter, chat with us, and we'll explain who owns who, and what the heck I'm talking about, heh. ;P

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