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Friday, March 21, 2014

Organizing my writing schedule

One of the most common problems that writers face is in organizing their writing schedule. Unless you have a schedule, you won't get any work done on time, but having a schedule means that you can basically call upon your writing “mood” whenever you are of a mind to.

I understand this very well. I've been writing for so long that I've probably gone through most phases that a writer possibly can. There have been days when my output will be twice that of any normal day while at the same time there have been days when I hardly get any work done.

Over the years though I've reached a sort of equilibrium point with regards to my writing. For so many years, my writing has been contract, work for hire. This means that I get paid only on the completion of a contract or when I send in so many articles of so many words each.

And just like any other job, I will have deadlines to adhere to and quality standards to meet. And unlike a regular job where a bad day means a shelling from your boss, for me it meant no income. A lost day means lost $$.

When you start working like this, you tend to structure your work so that you can accomplish so much per week. You start organizing your work so that you can be more effective with your time, than just working longer or harder.

This is not to say that I haven't done it. I have. But very soon I found that this just wasn't going to work. Not only did I not have time for my family, but my work too started to suffer. And when you're a contract worker, your work quality is of paramount importance. If it drops, you get dropped.

I believe that everyone needs to reach their equilibrium position. What this is, only you can find out. And the only way to find out is by writing.

I know that this advice seems a little weird, but in truth, it isn't. It's like cycling, or driving, or pretty much anything else. The only way for you to learn to do something is for you to actually do it. The analogy may not seem apt, but just think; you may very well have have been driving for years, even decades, but if you've only ever done short drives, nothing is going to prepare you for a drive of a few thousand miles. This doesn't mean that you don't know how to drive, just that driving a few hours a day is a whole different ball game from you driving day in and day out, weeks or months on end.

So a hobbyist driver may drive when the “mood” strikes him or her. The professional writer cannot afford to. Whether they can call upon this “mood” whenever they need it or they find some other way, the bottom line is that they DO find a way.

And what is my way?

Before I start writing, I sit quietly for a few minutes. Sometimes I read verses from the Bible, other times I just introspect. What I am looking for is for my mind to calm down.

If you think that this is easy, let me tell you, it isn't. I don't know about you, but for me, most of my peace of mind went out the window when I got married, and whatever little bit remained, I lost when I had my kid.

Don't take me wrong, I'm not bemoaning my lot in life. Not at all. It just isn't easy.

But I try, and I keep trying. And over time, I've reached a sort of equilibrium which means that I'm not at the positive extreme, but I'm certainly not at the negative extreme either.

Your position may seem very different from mine, but if you cut down to brass tacks, it isn't. The reason why you aren't able to get any work done is because you have a hundred other things going on inside your head. Your mind is constantly spinning at full speed and slowing it down takes a conscious effort of will.

This is what the experienced writer has that a novice doesn't. And what I have found out is that my best work comes out only when my mind is calm.

So before you open a calendar and organize a schedule, find out what your equilibrium position is. You may want to get through a hundred pages a day, but you should first find out if you can. There's no point in just setting yourself up for failure. At the same time there's no sense in you just jotting something down when the fancy takes you.

I've had my say, and now you can. I'd like to hear what you writers have to say about how you do your writing, and if there are any tips that you can give.

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