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I am not yet a full time writer. In fact, I am currently a more than full time day jobber. Even so, I have work hours for my writing. I have to if I ever intend to be a full time writer.
I used to be a full time writer, when my little one was very little. Actually, I was a stay at home mom when I was with my ex. I learned a lot about making my own schedule during that time. Things that I use now while I’m trying to fit at least part time writing hours into my day. Things that will be essential to my life when I get my dream life.
Do you have a writing schedule? Or do you currently have more of a fly by the seat of your pants mentality about your work? Trust me, your writing and life will benefit from having a schedule. This is even more important when you’re becoming your own boss.
When you’re making your self employed schedule, here are some questions you need to answer for yourself first.
Your own internal clock needs to be your first concern. No amount of bullying and self hate will make you create good work if the time you spend at your desk is when you’re so tired you can’t see the keyboard, it’s just a fuzzy thing sitting on your desk. Now, I’m a morning person. I’ve been getting up at 5:30 to write before the day job, which I didn’t really think was going work at first. But it has to my joy. Writing after the day job has not worked, try as I might. By the evening I don’t have any creative energy left, so that’s never going to be prime writing time
You have to consider the schedule of people around you that you can’t control. If you live alone, go ahead and skip this part. If not, your partner’s work schedule, kids school and sleep schedule, these things will play into your writing time. Even your room mate can be a distraction. I have found that, since my writing space is in the living room, I work best when either everyone is gone or everyone is watching something I can tune out.
(That, by the way, is one of the secrets to my success. I learned as a little girl to read and write with the tv on. My mother, sadly, was a huge fan of trash tv. You’d be surprised how many novels I read and short stories I wrote while Jerry Springer was on.)
You should strongly consider the schedules of the people around you that you have control over. Like, for instance, if you have small children who nap. Or older kids that can be sent to play outside at opportune times. Or if your partner can be asked to go take the little ones to the park. Whatever pull you have on the actions of others, take it. Be loving, be flexible. Be willing to compromise. I find that if I take the monsters out of the house so my stay at home dad can have some personal time, he’s more willing to take them on errands so I can have some desk time. As for the monsters, they have learned that I need to be left alone for exactly twenty five minutes at a time, and then they can have my undivided attention.
Once you’ve taken some time to consider all of this, there are some tips that I, and many other awesomely productive people, take advantage of. Five, to be specific.
1. When you look at your to do list for the week, you want to consider what sort of work you have to get done. A week’s to do list for me might include a certain amount of chapters for Woven, editing a short story that I wrote a week before, a few stories that had been rejected that need sent back out, my Paper Beats World blog posts and a new rough draft of a new story to write. The first thing I consider is how much creative energy each of these projects is going to take me. Fiction takes the most creative energy. Rough drafts are the most draining, but editing takes a lot too. So I use my early morning time to write fiction. Whatever Woven book I’m working on comes first, followed by my short fiction. Sending stories takes almost no energy at all, because I can write a cover letter in my sleep. So I can spend an hour after work sending out some of my pieces without a problem. My blog posts also take little creative energy after I’ve planned out my posts for the month, because it’s basically talking. I really like to talk. So that’s another thing that I can do after work if I must, but it really is best done earlier in the day if possible. So think about how much energy each of your projects is going to take.
2. Deadlines are you friends, trust me. I know, it might not seem like it, but they are. Otherwise it is way too easy to say, “I don’t really need to get that done today. What’s it going to hurt if I leave it until tomorrow?” Make yourself realistic deadlines, and stick to them!
3. And when I say realistic deadlines, I mean it. You need to schedule days off, and even vacations. Why? Because you need to charge your batteries, that’s why. You need to switch off, watch bad tv, go to the beach, play video games all day, read comic books. Look, I love writing, I do. I understand the desire to keep going, every second I get. And while I’m still at my day job, I take almost every second I can get to write. But I always take one day a month where I don’t work, don’t write, don’t clean house and don’t stress about it. My family and I also take at least one vacation a year, and none of my writing goes with me. I also take my monster’s birthdays off, and spend the whole day not only celebrating their day, but the anniversary of the days that made me a mommy and step mommy. I’ve got to live my life, and so do you.
4. Finally, do have set work hours, and don’t write outside of them. Have a time when you are done for the day, as a rule (see below.)
5. Understand that there are going to be times when all of these tips go right out of the window. There are going to be nights when your stop time comes, and you just don’t want to. Let yourself keep going sometimes. There are months that I get to my day off, and decide to devote the whole day to my current writing project instead. And a deadline, for me, can always get pushed back if life happens, as I’ve said many times before.
Here’s the biggest thing to remember about making your own writing schedule, though. The whole point of being your own boss is working how you need to work. It’s all about writing our stories, and getting those stories to other people. Whatever you need to do to make that happen, do it so long as you’re healthy and happy. If you’re your own boss, be a good one.