Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 7 Rules Part II: Writing Time

Last week I posted my seven rules of blogging. This week I want to share my seven rules of utilizing writing time. Though you writers reading this will not have the same rules I have, I challenge you to write your own out, to stand by them, and keep them close at hand. (If you haven’t already.) A major step in the world taking your writing seriously is for you to take it seriously first. What better way than to create your own guidelines?

1. Spend every day working on a project.
It may not be actual writing, but I work on a manuscript everyday except Sundays. Whether it’s research, outlining, revising, or drafting just get in there and do it. I admire those that can write every day but I can’t—generally that comes in chunks.

2. Schedule a time to write. And hold that time sacred.
People in my life know that I’ll rarely commit to something between 9-11 am. That’s nap time and it’s sacred for writing. Also, the wee hours in the morning (4:30!) are my special creative times and I really try to make that a moment for new words. Not always possible but…

3. Embrace that writing is important for your well-being.

I’ve learned that I need to write new words for my own mental health. If I give myself the space to write, I am a lot nicer person to be around the rest of the day. Many writers recognize this about themselves so they make sure they get writing time in.

4. Create a trigger exercise.
Many writers use a trigger to let their brain know it’s time to write for awhile. Some people have a cup of coffee, do yoga poses, read a few pages out of a favorite book, listen to an inspirational song, and the list goes on. I check my email and then jump into it. Only, this isn’t working so well for me because I get distracted by the internet too easily. So I’m trying to run through a Tai chi form before I sit to write. I’ll let you know how that goes, but my advice is to find something that you will associate with moving into that creative time—something you only relate with writing words.

5. If you’re struggling with making time for writing, design a time log.

You’ll be surprised how much either a) you are writing or b) you will feel accountable simply by writing it down. Here’s what the one I use looks like. (And yeah, I try to look for the good in my writing day too!)

6. Novels have been written in fifteen minute intervals.
Sometimes the only time available is a few minutes here and there. It may not be ideal, but it can be done and I’m always surprised how much I can write in those little minutes while dinner is cooking, kids are bathing, or I’m waiting for a meeting to start.

7. Recognize your time wasters and eliminate them.

Admit what takes time away from writing, evaluate if it’s worth it, and then make changes. For me, I blink and I’ve spent an hour of my writing time on the internet. So I have to force myself to unplug the modem sometimes. (Gasp!) It’s very hard to do! Keep a notebook next to your writing materials and jot down sites you want to visit or things you want to research. After your writing session, allow yourself to look up those sites.

If you have other rules or tips on how to utilize writing time, please share! I’ll end with one of my favorite writing time quotes: “Becoming a writer means being creative enough to find the time and the place in your life for writing.’ -- Heather Sellers

On Friday I’ll post Part III: The 7 Rules of Rejection.


  1. Great tips. I keep a writing log also. It's a huge factor in keeping me productive. Also, I remind myself I don't have to be in a certain mood to write. I can write even if I feel uncomfortable, melancholy, or overly happy, but it's hard to start sometimes!

  2. These are wonderful tips! I like the idea of creating a trigger exercise. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I loved this post, thanks for sharing! I read that Franzen NEVER connects to the Internet. That would explain his massive novels I guess. Anyway, I am trying that. It's amazing how my mind opens up when it has to sit at a keyboard by itself. ;-) Will look forward to your rejection rules, too.

  4. This is so great! I totally agree with the planning time to write. I have to do that or the writing just doesn't get done. =)

  5. Great tips Jackee. I liked the idea of a writing log. I think I will start one to keep myself on track. Thank you!

  6. I like the idea of using a trigger to let the brain know it's time to write. I've never done that before. I could use yoga since that always puts me in a good mood.


  7. Great rules. I like the suggestion to create a triggering event. I honestly hadn't ever thought of that, but it sounds like a great idea. I like your time log too.

  8. I love the log and this part “Didn’t throw the computer through the wall”. My favorite tip is to write is #6. Writing in bursts throughout the day can be a nice alternative to forcing a long stint at the writing table.

  9. Wow. Wow again. I love your time log specially the "something I did well today" column!!!! :-)

    I really don't have anything to add to your fabulous list.

    My own list is appalling. I think my list will be: write when inspired, write when not tired, take time to read a story, write and re-write. :-) Oh and have some chocolate.

    Take care

  10. I LOVE number four. I'd never thought of what my "trigger" activity is (other than my youngest kiddo taking her daily nap). I really like the idea of stretching physically in order to stretch the mind. Thanks for the helpful post!

  11. I try to follow Rule 1 as much as possible--it keeps me going, even if it's not what I was doing the previous day!

  12. Last one - nice. I spend way too much time reading blogs about writing.


    Maybe I should go write some for the next few minutes instead.

  13. Love your rules. I follow many of them, but I don't schedule. My life doesn't follow many schedules, and that works for my brain :)

  14. I'm amazed at your organization. One of my rules is to be part of a critique group (with submission deadlines). When someone is expecting something from me, I'm more likely to make time for it. :)

  15. These are great! I especially like your little chart. Often I have no idea (memory) of what I've written on any given day. A record would be kind of nice.


  16. Whenever I'm writing, I flip the switch to turn off my wireless internet. If I don't, I'll easily jump on to "check" something and get sucked in.

    And thanks for sharing these tips!

  17. Great tips, Jackee! I really like the log sheet. I think I'm going to borrow that idea from you. :) Thanks for sharing...

  18. Good tips.

    Now that I don't have big chunks of time, I'm beginning to think the rest of my novel will be written in 15-minute intervals.

    Can't wait for the rejection list!

  19. This is all sound advice - although actually 'eliminating' your time-wasters could get you into trouble! ;-)

    I try and start off with a 'free writing' on random topic - not allowed to stop writing for 10 minutes on that subject.
    I'm not actually doing NaNo, but trying to write 2000 words a day on my non-'proper job' days and don't allow myself lunch until I've done it!

  20. Great tips! I think scheduling a writing time and sticking to it is really important. You just need to make the time!

  21. I like that number 6. I've had some very productive seasons when I follow that rule and don't try to carve out a whole hour to sit down.

    Great points, Jackee!

  22. Super helpful rules which I will write up for myself as soon as I finish wasting time online. But if I hadn't chosen to open internet rather than writing project I would not have found you! What a dilemma! Ha!

    I'll be back!

  23. Excellent tips. My writing time has not been effective lately and I think it's because I haven't been exercising (all the greatest ideas come when I'm trapped on a treadmill!) and I haven't taken the computer out of the house. I do more in an hour at the library than I can do at home in 3...little distractions add up!

    Can't wait to see what you've got next!

  24. My rules sound a lot like yours. I haven't been able to master the art of writing in 15-minute intervals, though. I can't seem to get my mind to focus with such a short time.

  25. I think that my husband should not see anything that shows the amount of time I spend at my computer writing until I start making money ;)
    Great ideas. Another excellent list.

  26. Great tips! I try to write every day but right now it isn't scheduled because it is what I spend a large part of my day doing--my girls are on a break from homeschooling as we went non-stop for a few years so we are going light and focusing on language arts--but come January, I will have to make a schedule and guard those precious writing minutes. Thanks for the advice . . . and for stopping by the blog!

  27. Great comments. I read recently that a writer logs out of his email while writing as it's a major distraction. Smart and bold move. Thanks for sharing. I still love Jane Yolen's advice: Keep B.I.C (Butt In Chair).

  28. The internet is guzzling my writing time this very minute ;)

    This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing it, Jackee!

  29. Thank you for the tip on finding a trigger exercise. On Wii Fit, my son brags that he's great at Lotus Focus and I suck at it. True. So, now, sitting completely still and only focusing inward will be my trigger exercise.

    Oh, and I should do it RIGHT NOW! Thanks!