Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why A Writing Schedule Is A Really Good Idea

--I use Grammarly for proofreading because not every rule has a rhyme.--

As most of you know, I am a freelance writer who works from home with no other day job. I used to have a full-time day job that I loved completely… it consumed my life in every way. I would come home in the late afternoon exhausted but content. After spending the day with dozens of people in challenging situations, I was drained and longing to veg the evening away in front of the TV.

But I always found a way to write. I filled journals, blogs and a small nonpaying newspaper column. I sometimes imagined that it would be Heaven to just stay home all day every day and write to my heart’s content. If anything could be more perfect than my ministry job, it would be being a full-time writer!

I have now been writing “full-time” for two years and um….nope, it is not Heaven. Silly me, I discovered that self-discipline is not my strong gifting. I can waste multiple days away without producing a single worthwhile sentence. Who knew that waking up to a totally blank day could leave you just as blank when you hit the bed again that night?

But in recent months I have experimented with setting up a writing schedule that works for me. This is where the helpful part of this blog post will begin. I have learned a few things that may be useful to other work-at-home writers.

I NEED a Writing Schedule!

You may think that having unlimited time to write would make the creativity flow like water. Surprise, surprise…not for me! I have an empty-nest (sorta) and no outside appointments of any kind. My time is my own. I have complete freedom. The fact that I have time has caused me to procrastinate enough to become the high and not-so-mighty Queen of Procrastination.

I have discovered that this lady really needs to be on a schedule in order to accomplish anything. So I figured out how to schedule my writing assignments. That leads to my next lesson learned.

Finding a Writing Rhythm

I have 3 client articles due each week, every week. Another client expects an article once a month. Since the due dates are constant and very close together, if I fall behind…it is a grand mess! So the early days of writing whenever I feel like it are gone. Thankfully, my clients have allowed me to set the schedule. I was able to organize the posts to work with my rhythm of work and rest.

My Writing Calendar is marked with just my regular writing jobs. In between those due dates I respond to job ads every single week. I submit to a weekly writing contest and write for a website that pays me if my post receives enough votes from readers. I also keep a careful chart of every job submitted, invoiced and payment received.

But one or two days a week I do not do any of that. (At least I TRY not to.) My mind can become a constant swirl of worry and concern because I am self-employed and it rests on me to be organized and careful. My small, but consistent income helps us pay our bills each month. The problem with working for yourself is that you cannot leave the job at the office. It is there all the time, even when you could be relaxing.

So if you do not schedule a day or two off, you will find yourself worrying about the work even when you are not working! Let’s say your spouse suggests a trip to the library or a movie. You feel guilty for enjoying some fun because a task is waiting for you and you don’t know when you will do it. If you have a schedule for each task, you will know that tomorrow it will get done, and today can be a fun day. What a beautiful difference that makes!

Social Media Shutdown

Logging out of Facebook is another key that has changed my productivity in a huge way. It seems like a simple and obvious step, but I LOVE FB! As a stay-at-home person with very little outside communication…umm I need me some social on the media. I love my online writing group and depend upon them to answer questions, challenge me and give me some giggles in between assignments.

They have become an accountability method for me in recent months and it is working beautifully. I tell my group (or all of FB sometimes) that I am logging out from 10am to 3pm. This forces me to stay off, because they will know if I hop back online. There have been some very interesting side benefits from this practice.

Now I get up and move around between assignments instead of popping over to FB for a bit. If I need a writing break, I go fold some laundry or empty the dishwasher. I often do stretches and a short work-out between assignments. No social media during working hours also allows my mind to drift and be more creative and inspired. I can enjoy social media without guilt during the non-working hours and that is much more fun!

I hope this long post has inspired you to find your writing rhythm and create a workable schedule. It will free you up to enjoy the present with less worry about the future. Being a Freelancer ought to involve some freedom, right? 

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  1. Good for you, brilliant friend.

    1. Thanks D, not terribly brilliant, but very persistent. :)

  2. This is a wonderful post...and I find that I, even a person who DOES have a full time job away from home, can become distracted by FB during the day, so I have to discipline myself not to take sneak peeks at it during my breaks in between deadlines and crises at work. Knowing that you are not on there anyway does help me to stay focused, cause it's no fun w/o you! :) Love ya girlfriend!!!! Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration to me!!

    1. I miss you though. You inspire me too Pamela!

  3. I don't know who those guys are, but that is a very convincing font!

    Yeah...borrowed that from Phineas and Ferb.

  4. The more time I have on my hands, the less I get done. It's sad, but true.

    One of my goals for this year is to get a handle on the whole time management thing. I've scheduled writing time for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. If I miss one night because of an appointment, I have to make it up somewhere. So far, it's working.

  5. Ah, yes; the organizing life of a free-lancer. Been there; done that. Only you're busier than I was much of the time. Well done on getting organized!

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

    1. Did not even discuss my non-paying writing, like this blog and my WIP. Thanks for the blessings and hugs!

  6. Susie: I too struggle with finding time to write. I am also concerned about time management issues. I have a few outside interests that I choose to do. And I have to make time to go out every afternoon with my hubby. This snow/cold weather we have experienced since December has allowed me time to write my column and keep ahead on my blog.

    1. You are consistent and that is key. I need some outside interests at this point.

  7. Good work! l guess I'm lucky that I have a job and can look at writing as a treat, almost goof off time! But I keep telling myself that I will really be able to write when I retire.

    1. Writing is still a treat but it got very close to becoming drudgery when I was not careful about my time.

  8. Hahaha I like Sandi's comment! LOL! Love the post. I always have time to write is the real life that is always interrupting my writing time. Yeesh. But, I'll deal. I could be May Sarton. Well, minus her personal! Um. I'll slink away now.

  9. I too am have plenty of time to blog....but I need to do a better job organizing my time...This post hit home for me.


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