8 Ways to Create (And Stick To) A Writing Schedule
Good habits are an important part of being a writer.
It takes time to achieve success as an author, and one of the biggest aspects of that success is often a regular writing habit—and that starts with creating a sustainable writing schedule.
In this article, I’m going to give advice on how you can build the right writing schedule for you, based not only on my own experiences but also on my discussions with other writers. We’re all unique, but with these tips in hand, you should have everything you need to create a writing schedule you can stick to.
Before we continue, let me take a moment to introduce you to Katja Kaine.
Katja is a YA fantasy writer, a writing teacher of over ten years, and the founder of The Novel Factory, a suite of tools designed to make writing a novel easier. Katja has a lot to share about building a successful writing schedule—so, I’ll hand things over to her! 🙂 – Lewis
Why You Should Ignore Your “Muse”
Aspiring writers often believe that they have to wait until “the muse” strikes them, and may spend days, weeks, or even months waiting to be “in the mood” for writing. Successful writers know they can’t expect that luxury. Professional writers know that writing has to be treated as such—as a profession.
That means turning up every day, and putting in the work.
Of course, if you’re starting out, it’s extremely likely you’re writing alongside another job, so it won’t be possible to commit eight hours a day to dreaming up characters and jotting down plots.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be consistent and effective. Creating and sticking to a healthy writing schedule is often what separates those who achieve their dreams of publishing a novel from those for whom it always remains out of reach.
So, let me offer some practical guidance and tips on how to create a healthy writing schedule, and take your writing to the next level.
Eight Tips for Building a Healthy Writing Schedule
#1 Be Specific:
Saying “I’m going to write more” is not a useful goal.
Saying “I’m going to write every day” is better.
Saying “I’m going to write for one hour every morning of every weekday” is best.
In order to create a healthy writing schedule, you have to be specific. Think about how much time you plan to write each day. Decide which days you will do it—such as whether weekdays or weekends are better for you.
Ideally, you should also think about when you’re going to do this writing. This helps ensure you have time set aside, so you don’t end up realizing you’ve run out of time by the end of your day. Bonus points if you specify where you plan to write (such as your desk or the library)!
#2 Be Realistic:
One of the most common traps writers fall into when creating their writing schedule is being overly ambitious. This is natural. You’re excited about your passion and about spending all that delicious time bringing your stories to life.
However, try your best to resist setting unachievable goals and ending up strained, burned out and demoralized.Resist setting unachievable goals. It's easier to grow a small habit into a big one, than it is to recover from overwhelm and burnout. Click To Tweet
Take into account your schedule and commitments, and ensure you still have enough downtime to take care of yourself. It’s better to commit to thirty minutes twice a week and stick to it for a year than to commit to an hour every day and only keep it up for a month.
The secret is that, once you get a small writing habit going, it’s much easier to let it grow and expand. But, if you over-extend, that feeling of failure will be harder to bounce back from.
NOTE: Think you’re already suffering from writer’s burnout? This article might be able to help.
#3 Be Consistent:
This article could just as easily have been called “How to Create a Healthy Writing Habit” rather than a writing schedule.
Making writing a habit is what this is all about! With a strong habit, you don’t even think about having to fit writing into your life, and eventually you don’t need any specifics defined at all. You do your writing every day just as naturally as you have lunch or take a shower.
Because of this, if you create your schedule so that you write at the same time every day, that can be very helpful. Then, the more consistently you keep it up, the easier it will become.
#4 Be Flexible:
Having said that, try not to get dogmatic about your writing schedule.
If something comes up and you really can’t stick to your plan, then just shift things around. Sometimes life gets in the way, and you need to be able to accommodate that without everything falling apart. If you do have to miss one of your sessions, try to fit it in somewhere else. And if you can’t do that, just carry on as soon as you can.
There’s no need to get frustrated when you can be flexible and take it in stride—which brings me to my next point…
#5 Be Kind (To Yourself):
It’s a sad fact that many of us are our own worst critics. We have inner editors that insist on pointing out all our failings. While it is good to be self-aware and considerate of those around us, this sort of self-berating can be extremely harmful.
If you do suffer from a cruel inner editor, it can help to imagine that same voice saying those things to someone you love, rather than yourself. How would you feel if someone said those things to your child, partner, or best friend?
Most of us would agree that we would tell that voice where to stick it.
Now—can you do the same for yourself?
The same goes for writing. As I’ve said above, life gets in the way sometimes. If you end up missing a scheduled writing session (or even several), beating yourself up about it is not going to be constructive. In fact, it is very likely to be the opposite, and sap your energy.
Don’t succumb to that. If something goes wrong, take a deep breath and pick it back up when you’re ready. You can always start again.
#6 Be Protective:
Another wrench that can get in the way of a healthy writing schedule is interruptions—usually by family and friends.
Many new writers suffer from imposter syndrome, and feel guilty spending time writing when they could be doing housework or other more “important” work.
Well, if writing is your passion, then it is important.
If you can be protective of your writing time and impress on your friends and family that they must also respect it, you will have vaulted one of the trickiest hurdles for new writers. So, if appropriate, explain your writing schedule to those that live with you, and make it clear that during those times you are not to be disturbed (unless it’s a genuine emergency, and needing a sandwich made does not count as an emergency).
It sounds small, but if you’re able to close the door to the room you’re writing in, you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes to how likely people are to disturb you on a whim.
#7 Be Active:
Most of the writing you do will be at a desk—either on a computer or, if you’re really old school, on paper. However, much of the important work of novel writing happens deep inside your skull, well before it is translated to black and white via your fingertips.
Because of this, you may want to include going for a walk as part of your writing schedule. Many writers say they get their best ideas and solve the gnarliest of plot holes while being active and away from their desk.
Of course, you’ll have to be vigilant when adding this in—don’t just use it as an excuse to think about what you’re going to make for dinner, or mentally reply to emails!
If walking time is creative time, make efforts to stay focused on your novel.
#8 Be Together:
Some people are excellent at setting goals and sticking to them. However, most of us are not.
That’s where external accountability comes in.
For many of us, having a community of like-minded people around us can be instrumental in keeping us motivated and on track. Having goals and deadlines set by other people keeps us honest and making progress. Some groups even organize regular “write-ins” which you could align your schedule with.
A lot of writers are reluctant to find other writers to connect with—it seems to be a natural introversion that relates to why we’re drawn to writing in the first place. However, if you can overcome that hesitancy and find your writing tribe, you will reap great rewards indeed.
Other writers can give you encouragement and feedback, let you know about opportunities and resources, and so much more. There are many options when it comes to finding a writing tribe. Here are just a few:
- Find a local in-person writing group by searching for “writing groups near me. “
- Scribophile is an online critique website of a very high standard.
- Some Facebook groups provide support and regular write-ins.
- Some Meetup groups do the same.
Your Writing Schedule Matters!
If you want to be a writer, then it’s important to have a solid writing habit—and the best way to establish that habit is to create and stick to a healthy writing schedule.
By following the tips above, you should be able to create a writing schedule which is sustainable and effective. Be sure to be realistic and kind to yourself, and never lose sight of the fact that you write because you love doing it.
What does your writing schedule look like? Let me know in the comments!
Katja Kaine is a writer based in Yorkshire, England. She writes fantasy for children and young adults, and in the past year has placed highly in several prestigious writing competitions. She is the creator of the Novel Factory, software designed to make life easier for novel writers. It includes plot templates, character questionnaires and heaps of other useful tools for aspiring and established authors.