24. Scheduling Time to Write That Actually Works

If you want to write on a consistent basis, the key is to schedule writing into your day and life.

Scheduling writing time might be something you’ve tried in the past, but if you’ve been unsuccessful at sticking to it, this method is going to be a big help.

Where most writers run into trouble when it comes to scheduling writing time, is in their perfectionistic, black and white, thinking about it.

You’re either all in, following your writing schedule perfectly, or you’re failing at it and not doing it at all. You might find yourself thinking in streaks. You’re either in a “good streak” of writing or in a “bad streak” of not writing.

If you want to schedule in writing time that actually works, you’re going to have to shift that thinking.

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This beginner scheduling technique is not about doing writing perfectly, but about doing it consistently, over time. It’s about developing a relationship with yourself where you can start to trust yourself to follow-through.

The techique is simple: you plan a minimal, but do-able, writing schedule that you can actually follow.

Instead of setting a schedule that has you writing four hours a day, seven days a week, you set a schedule to write for one hour a day, once a week. Or whatever your minimum commitment level is.

Your perfectionistic writer self is going to hate this technique. But it’s the one that needs it the most.

Because your perfectionist writer brain wants you to write four hours a day, seven times a week, read two books a month and write two books a year.

The flip side of it usually looks like; “If I can’t do all of that, then I won’t do any of it. And if I’m not doing any of it, then clearly I’m a failure as a writer and as a person.”

The problem with these fantasy writing schedules is that sometimes we can follow them for short stints, but once we fall off them it’s very hard to get back on. So we spend long periods hating ourselves and feeling miserable.

These perfectionistic writing schedules is one of the quickest ways to destroy your self-confidence, self-esteem, and trust with yourself.

If you’ve been stuck in this black and white pattern, your trust with yourself is probably gone. You don’t trust yourself to follow your writing schedule and do what you said you will do. So we have to start at this beginner level of scheduling. We have to build that trust and confidence back up if you ever want to have a more committed writing schedule.

Our brains consistently overestimate when we can get done in a short period of time, and underestimate what we can get done in a long period of time. We are constantly over-promising results to ourselves over a short amount of time, and underpromising what we can do in a longer amount of time.

If you gave yourself one hour to write 300 words, twice a week, and you did that consistently, you would have a 70,000 word novel done in two years.

And that might seem like a long time to some of you, but think about where you would be now if you had committed to just that schedule two years ago.

Your brain wants to compare this two-year book goal to the fantasy land where you do your routine perfectly all the time and it gives you two books. But we never do it perfectly all the time. And we spend most of that time in self-loathing without any results.

Give this beginner scheduling a try with these two steps:

  1. Choose a realistic, minimum amount of writing that you actually can do.

  2. Block that time on your calendar.

Don’t listen to the part of your brain that tells you that it's not worth it, it’s a waste of time, that it’s not enough.

Our brains get a rush of dopamine when we make the perfect schedule and fantasize about following it. This minimum scheduling won’t give you that. It will feel pointless and dull. But it can change everything. It can get you the results you want and more importantly, it will teach you how to commit to yourself.

Minium scheduling will teach you to show up. Step by step, it will restore your integrity with yourself.

I cannot overstate how important it is. It’s anything but pointless.

Pick the smallest commitment you can for yourself. Have it feel achievable. Make it easy on yourself. Then put it on your calendar. That is it.

And remember that occasionally you’ll miss a day. You will still fall off this easy schedule. But it’s ok, we don’t work in streaks, we keep showing up and doing the work.

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