My schedule has changed a lot recently. I’m trying to read more regularly, I play more guitar and accidentally joined a band, so I have to practice for that, and I’ve changed up my gym program. All of these thing, in combination with the normal, boring stuff like sleeping, eating, and going to a job that pays actual money, means that I don’t have as much time to write anymore.
I had to fix that.
I used to try and put aside a specific amount of time for writing. Not necessarily every day, but regularly. I’d say: “On these days, between these and these times, you’ll write.” It would look something like this:
- Monday: 19:00 – 21:00
- Wednesday: 17:00 – 18:00
- Thursday: 19:00 – 20:30
- Friday: 17:00 – 19:00
- Saturday: 12:00 – 16:00
- Sunday: 16:00 – 20:00
They might change a little bit from week to week, but with a schedule that looked something like that, I would sit down to write during those times. And I would. With a generous drizzle of procrastination of course, I’m not gonna lie, but I did. I wrote for those hours (or however long it was.)
The problem with this time-based approach—at least in my case—was that it didn’t give me even results. Depending on what mood I was in, how I was feeling, how many distractions there were, and so on and so on, I could write anywhere from 300 to 3000 words. (And it was hardly ever 3000). The problem was that I was too focused on those hours passing me by, not what I produced during them. I felt like if I’d sat down for 4 hours, I’d done a good job, which just wasn’t true because it might not reflect that way in my writing.
So I had to change it up, I knew that. I do that regularly anyway, because life happens, but this time I actively went for a new approach to my writing. Now, I don’t believe in writing every day. If you have the opportunity and want to, sure, go for it. But I don’t think it’s a necessity. (See how I didn’t use to write on Tuesdays earlier? Tuesdays were busy.)
Knowing I needed a change, I started thinking about what, and how I could change it. I knew time wasn’t a good measurements. I wanted to measure by result, by end products, but how? Words, pages, chapters, or scenes?
- I figured scenes and chapters are too variable. I write thrillers and some chapters are teeny tiny, and some are massive. It wouldn’t give me an even measurement.
- Scenes… well, I could maybe go for that, but I don’t think like that. What’s a scene? When’s a scene two smaller scenes mashed together, or one long scene? Where do you draw the lines? It’s all a continuous blurred mess for me, every scene bleeding into the next, except for where you get hard breaks but those usually end up being chapters.
- I could have done pages, but it that also feels too variable. If you have a long section of narration, compared to a choppy dialogue, it wouldn’t be the same from day to day. So obviously, I went with words.
Word count, simple as that. At the moment, that means I have to write 1000 words every day. I plan to up it to at least 1500, maybe 2000 soon, but for the moment its 1000. And I can do that however fast or slow I want, depending on the rest of my day. But I have to write 1000, and if I do it fast, that works in my favor. If I want, I can keep going, but if not, it means that the rest of my day won’t be as stressful, and that I might have time to relax a bit.
It’s doing wonders for my motivation and inspiration. Instead of sitting down thinking I’m going to write for 4 hours, and thinking that I have to make the most of those hours, I just need to write 1000 words. Today it took me less than 30 minutes, because I accidentally got up too early. And I loved it. It makes me want to sit down, both because I love to write even more now, but also because I ‘just-have-to-hurry-and-get-these-words-in-and-then-I-can-chill’. It’s a sneaky reward system and it works really well.
Also, I feel like my work is flowing much better now. One of my alpha readers told me once he could tell by my writing how fast I’d pieced together the first draft, and his conclusion was that the faster I did it, the better and more coherent it was. I never realized this myself, but he could see it on the page. And with this method, I’m doing a little bit at a time, more frequently than I did before (or at least felt I did before). It’s golden.
Also, it’s given me more time for my busy schedule. Somehow, I know manage to write a bit every day, and I have time for all these other things. It’s kind of weird, actually, where did all these hours come from?
Changing my writing time from being time-based to being result-based has not only given me more time for other things during my day, but at the moment its also giving me a new-found love for writing, inspiring me to write more, more often, and faster. I’m looking forward to upping my word count goals, because this is getting fun.
In the end, I think the best thing you can do is change it up occasionally. Even if it’s just to prove to yourself that what you were already doing was the right thing, it’s good to try different things.