Thursday, August 10, 2006

Creative Writing: Your Writing Schedule

As someone who recently started working from home, I've already discovered the distractions inherent in the home office environment. Although I'm working for an employer, not just for myself, I think many of Regina Paul's suggestions are helpful. Let me know what you think.

7 Steps to Creating a Working Writer’s Schedule that You Can Live With
By Regina Paul

Creating a working schedule when you’re a freelance writer can be a difficult task. When you work from home contrary to what many people think it is often not easier but more difficult as there are more distractions. For example, maybe you have children underfoot, or your house is dirty and the temptation to clean first and write later hits you, or friends and family are calling you because after all you can make your own schedule so why don’t you go out to lunch or shopping with them, you can write later, right? Unlike working a regular 9 to 5 job where you have a set schedule for what hours you are expected to be productive, when you work from home this is not the case, the only one you are responsible to is yourself.

So, how do you create a working writer’s schedule and stick to it? There are a number of tricks and tips you can use to help yourself in this respect. After all if you don’t write, you don’t get paid, and if you don’t get paid, neither do the bills.

1. Decide how many hours you want to work each day which will provide enough income to take care of your necessities and leave you with a little extra for fun. Then pick the hours during the day when you are going to write, and stick to that time period.

2. Turn off your phone! I can’t stress this enough, many a writer finds him/herself answering phone calls from relatives or friends who don’t take their career choice of writer seriously, and then find themselves on the phone listening to gossip, requests to go shopping, or the latest emotional crisis with the boyfriend. Avoid this all together by turning off your phone during working hours. Let the voicemail or answering machine take the calls, you can always check them later when you take a break.

3. What if you have kids at home? Well, that can be tricky because kids are important and they have a right to our undivided attention and love. What I usually suggest is having special toys or a TV with DVD/VCR for them to watch videos (have them be videos maybe they don’t get to watch normally so it’s different than other times) or play in your home office or very close by. Make it a special time where they get to do something they really like while you are writing, this helps them to feel included in what you are doing.

4. Tell your friends and relatives what your working schedule is and ask them not to call or come over during those hours unless it’s an emergency (make sure you clarify what an emergency is, otherwise the next emotional crisis with the boyfriend will be used as an excuse). After all it’s not like they would show up at your place of employment unexpectedly if you had a regular job.

5. Create your own contract. Add the hours you are going to work and any other stipulations such as how many pages or articles you are going to write per day for example. Make sure you have a place to sign your name and date it, then print it out and hang it somewhere in your office where you can easily see it. This is your contract with yourself since you are your own employer.

6. Commit to your schedule, this is very important. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by dusty shelves, books that need to be reorganized or dirty dishes. Your writing must come first with the exception of an emergency or your children needing you of course. There are some distractions that you cannot ignore, but as much as possible stick to your schedule.

7. Make a list of daily goals. I make my list the night before based on what I got done during the day. I use a student’s planner which has several lines for each day and a full monthly calendar as well. I write in my goals the day before and then cross them off as I finish them each day. If I don’t finish a goal I move it to the next day until it is completed. This also makes it easier for me to keep track of deadlines for previously contracted work.

All of these tips will help you to create a working writer’s schedule that you can live with. You will see your productivity go up, as well as, your income. It’s worthwhile to create a schedule you can live with because you are more likely to stick to it, than the usual hit or miss method which is what many of us use when we are starting out. The old excuses of “I’m just not inspired right now, so I’ll wait,” or “I have writer’s block, I can’t possibly stick to a schedule now, I’ll create one later” will hold no sway over you because just like in the real world when you have to produce, you will train your brain that you are on a regular schedule and must produce as well.

Regina Paul is a freelance writer, and the author of GETTING OUT ALIVE, a science fiction romance, as well as two novellas and numerous articles. She is currently at work on her next novel, and her first non-fiction book. For more information you can visit her website at where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter Regina's Universe, participate in her latest contest, get free e-books, and find many other writer's freebies.

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