Finding the Right Writing Regimen
The life of a writer often involves a balance of two things: a creative mind free to wander into exciting story ideas, and a disciplined attitude that harnesses that creativity.
Often, these two qualities seem opposed to each other. If you wait to be creative, you may never get words on a page - but if you diligently choose a day and time to write, can you be creative on command?
In truth, the right kind of discipline is not limiting, but actually freeing, to our creativity. Here are several ways to finding the right balance in your writing schedule:
1. Writer, know thyself. The more we understand how we’re wired, the less anxiety and confusion we feel when writing. When are you at your most relaxed and creative? Are you a morning person, a night owl, or something different? Answer those questions and you’ve got yourself a built-in time each day to write. If your daily schedule varies, you can be flexible, but keep your writing time as consistent as possible.
2. Time is on your side. Now that you have a time of day nailed down to write, how long should you write for? This differs from writer to writer, but a good place to start is one hour. It allows for a solid chunk of time each day, but not so much that it crowds out other important things like rest, fun, social activities, exercise, etc. Limiting yourself to one hour works both ways – if your creativity is overflowing, you can finish your hour with something left in the tank for tomorrow. If it takes all you’ve got to slog through writing, the end of that hour is sweet relief!
Again, this can change if you can consistently write on more/less time – use it as a guideline and adjust to fit your style, just so long as it keeps you disciplined.
3. The 20-Mile March. So you have a time of day and length of time picked out – but how much should you write in each session? I would recommend somewhere around 3 single-spaced pages, and here’s why:
In the early 20th century, two guys attempted to be the first to reach the South Pole in Antarctica – Amundson and Scott. Whereas Scott pushed his team to the limit on clear days and stayed put in inclement weather, Amundson instituted the “20-Mile March” – no matter the conditions, his team would travel 20 miles every day. On good days, they would finish with energy to spare, which came in mighty handy when they suffered through the 20 miles in blizzard conditions on other days. Both men made it to the South Pole, but only one made it first, and survived the trip back: Amundson.
Just like limiting yourself to 1 hour, a 3-page limit is also a great daily goal. Why? Because on good days you avoid burnout, and on bad days you can see the end in sight. If you absolutely can’t contain your writing excitement, feel free to write 6 pages on a given day – but that doesn’t mean you can take the next day off. Three pages, every day, within that hour block, will leave you feeling accomplished.
4. Working for the weekend? Generally, you would want to write three pages, in one hour, for five days a week. If you hit your writing stride and want to finish your literary work faster, you may consider including weekends on your regimen. However, weekends are generally meant for rest, and for good reason. If you start feeling stretched thin from writing 7 days a week, stick to weekdays. It may take a little time, but writing is a marathon, not a sprint: pacing yourself will make the process much more enjoyable for you and those around you.
5. Feed your creativity. As important as it is to write – books, blog entries, articles, personal Haiku, etc. – it is vital to note that the richer your life experiences are, the better your writing will be. You may have heard the mantra, “write what you know,” and the more you live life, the more you’ll be able to draw from when you write. In addition to weekends, consider building chunks of time each day where you do things that recharge your batteries, so to speak.
Take a walk in the park. Go to a movie. Undertake a home improvement project. Chill with friends at a coffee shop. Sit in a chair and stare at a wall. Sleep like a hibernating bear. All of these things are a must to protect against the last point of this post...
6. Be present. When we’re excited by stuff and spend a lot of time doing/thinking about it, it’s often hard to unplug from it while we’re carrying on with the rest of life.
For example, it might be cool if you were an astronaut and went to space for an important mission, but how enjoyable would it be for your friends and family if that’s all you ever talked about? They’d want to shoot you back into space.
You may have the best writing idea ever, and you may put it in the public’s hands and become the Bestselling Writer of Awesome, but what you accomplish isn’t as important as who you become in the process. Don’t be obsessed with, or defined by, your writing. Instead, be a respected, well-rounded person that just so happens to be a great writer.
Start with these suggestions, figure out how best you operate as a writer, and see just how liberating it can be when you set the right kinds of discipline for yourself. Happy writing, and as always, expect greater things ahead!
Sean Sousa is the author of The Forever Saga: Flash, an action & adventure/science fiction/fantasy novel. It currently has an Amazon.com rating of 4.7 and Sean was kind enough to share an excerpt with us.
About the author:SEAN C. SOUSA never planned on writing a novel – that is, until the idea for The Forever Saga came along. He first conceived it as a video game design concept, then a screenplay, and finally a written work of fiction. His debut novel, The Forever Saga: Flash, marks the end of one six-year journey toward publication, and also the beginning of another: to bring his stories to a worldwide audience.
His dream is to see fiction inspire positive social change in the world, calling attention to issues of social justice and mobilizing his readership to meet the needs of those afflicted.
Mr. Sousa resides in Southern California with his wife, Shelley, and when he is not writing further adventures about the Renney family, he is usually up to socially acceptable mischief with his friends and family.
Connect with Sean:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Amazon