Scheduling Time for Writing

Sort of inspired by this article about a lack of productivity from HuffPo I’ve decided to offer my own insight.

Many of you know that I am now writing for a living. That means I am spending (at least) 8 hours a day on my computer 5-6 days a week producing copy material, blog posts, technical articles, proofread articles and SEO optimised blogs often to strict deadlines. This might sound a hell of a lot of time – and you are right – but since the beginning of this year when my work load surprisingly sky-rocketed, I found I had less time not just to look for new work, but also the leisure writing – my blog(s) and fiction.

While I have been writing my blog posts whenever it tickles my fancy (usually a couple of times a week and no more than about 3 hrs per week) I really feel until recently that my fiction writing has suffered. I simply hadn’t scheduled in time to make myself work on fiction. As a consequence, I missed another James White Award deadline and it made me realise that though my work schedule was pretty much clear and my blogging was arbitrary, I simply wasn’t making myself sit down and write fiction. So at the beginning of February, this is what I did…

I booted up and dusted off my aging 10 year old Dell desktop, leapt for joy as it sprung into life and then promptly transferred all of my fiction work onto there. “So what difference does that make, using a machine that runs on clockwork? I bet it doesn’t even have wifi!”

Stop right there… yes, that’s the point. My desktop does not have wifi. Do you realise how important that one small fact is to actually getting some writing done? It is immensely important and that’s the main reason I am keeping the machine until it conks out completely. In the last six weeks I have put aside a day every week (usually Sunday) to make myself sit down and write, and you know what? My Romans novel which was at the end of January around 3,000 words long is now some 16,000 words strong. So, it works and the inspiration has really flowed!

So here is my list of Top 5 Tips for getting some writing done:

  • Use a computer that doesn’t connect to the internet – it’s amazing how much of a distraction it is, especially when you are genuinely looking something up and get dist… ooh, I didn’t know he’d died!
  • If you write for a living then the prospect of using your “office” (i.e. your main computer) at weekends might not make you want to switch it on at all – using a different machine that has no references to your work (for example I have a sticky note on my laptop that lists all of my weekly work) will create a different atmosphere in your mind
  • Keep the television off – background noise might be nice sometimes, but it is every bit the distraction when something catches your eye.
  • SILENCE! You need space. I understand you might have family commitments. I’m lucky in that I am single and have no children so needn’t worry about anybody else so I can write fiction at my leisure – that’s why I choose Sunday. If you do have children, then set aside an hour or several when your routine suits
  • Break – as with everything else you need to rest your brain and exercise your legs. I go running 3-4 times per week and I feel that invigorates me. I also sometimes go walking with singles groups and that too gives me sufficient time and space to break from everything

So, what are your tips for creating distraction-free writing environments, either for deadlines or to reach your writing targets?

6 thoughts on “Scheduling Time for Writing

  1. Great post Matt. I find I can get a lot of writing done at my local library. The environment is very peaceful.

  2. Personally I need the Internet, and background noise whether that be music or TV.
    I write on google docs so I can write and edit with anything anywhere though, and limit my research excursions to another device rather than a new tab/window.
    I’ve tried writing in silence and don’t find it conducive, my mind needs something to ignore as left to its own devices it manufactures more distractions than background noise or even the Interwebs can manage.

    1. That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I used to be able to write with music on in the background. I tried it last week and couldn’t really concentrate. I was listening to Mogwai’s Les Revenants soundtrack.

      There are benefits to having the internet handy, for example there are a few notes here and there in my current WIP reminding myself to check certain aspects of Roman life, law, society etc. I’ll keep my laptop nearby to check, but I have to make sure I check what I am looking for and then snap the lid shut again.

  3. What he said: “Use a computer that doesn’t connect to the internet.”
    “… ooh, I didn’t know he’d died! ” is a great description of one of my biggest problems. I often write first drafts with a fountain pen, which also lacks WiFi.

    1. Haha! I don’t write by hand enough any more and haven’t done so since I finished my MA (note taking, not the actual essays). I’ve ever stopped carrying a notepad and pen around with me when out and about because I have Evernote on my phone.

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