I do NOT like to do the same thing every day. The one job where I worked in an office for forty hours a week made me nearly insane, and even in that job, I had the luxury of reading in the Stanford University Library and changing up my research patterns to build variety. But being in the same place, every day, at a desk . . . even now, the thought makes me a little shivery. And I loved my work in that job . . . just not the routine of it.
Yet, even though I crave variety in my day, I NEED routine. I need a pattern for my work so that I actually get it done. I may want to fancy myself the “free” artist who does what she wants when she wants it and routine be damned, but if I actually let myself become that woman, then, well, my work be damned, too.
I think this happens to a lot of writers. We don’t want to “confine” our art or schedule our “muse,” so we don’t make time for our work at all. We think that when we have inspiration, suddenly we won’t have dishes to do or children to put to bed or farm chores to finish. But the thing is, we’re wrong. Just like everything else in life, we have to make time for our writing.
So for me, the key to satisfying my need for a routine by which I write and my desire for freedom within my day has been to balance those two things. Here are the things I do to try and keep that balance:
1. I keep my mornings free if at all possible. Because I work from home, it is easy for me (and everyone else on the planet) to see all my time as available, but really, it’s not. I write in the mornings, so I don’t schedule meetings, client conferences, or get togethers with friends before noon.
2. I schedule a start and end time for writing specifically. I can putter away hours on the internet with the best of them, so I give myself the space to do that first thing in the day. But come 10am, I put fingers to keyboard and write. When I’m done with my specific writing goals for the day, I quit. If Noon comes before I’m done, I evaluate my day and see if I can continue. If farm chores or meetings call, I add what I didn’t do to tomorrow’s goals and let it go. I’ve learned to not let my whole day be wasted because I feel guilty not writing. A set start and end time help with that.
3. I set specific writing goals for every day. Typically, one of those goals is to write 1,000 fresh words on my work in progress. This way, I am getting pages down, even if I’m revising something else. Then, I might have a certain number of chapters on another project to finish, or a couple of freelance assignments to do. I make a specific list of the goals for a given day and try my best to achieve them in those two hours each morning.
4. I use my mornings as MY WRITING time. I don’t let editing or teaching or any of my other part-time jobs come into those hours. Until my goals are completed, those things wait, even if it means that I work late into the evening (as I did yesterday) to get the other work done. This is the only way I can work because once I let those other voices into my head, once my mind tilts toward someone else’s project, I am lost to my own until I get that blessed reset that sleep provides.
Your routine will probably look very different. But if you are at all like me, I think you’ll find that honoring the space in your day – even if it’s not every day – as writing space will help you immensely with both your production and your spirit. No more guilt about not writing and no more excuses about not getting the time. We make the time, and we honor it as part of our lives. That’s the balance.
What is your writing schedule? How does it help you stay on track?
By the way, I’ve started a new blog for God’s Whisper. I’ll just be posting farm-related things there – pictures, information about upcoming farm workshops, my musings about this farm life. I hope you’ll stop by.