Need a Writing Boost? Shake Up Your Schedule

scheduleI haven’t blogged here in a long time, and usually that means I’ve been having trouble finding enough time for writing, period. Happily, that has not been the case these last few weeks. Instead, I have been enjoying the forward momentum that comes from getting in a little bit of writing time almost every day.

Because my “day job” involves pretty much nothing but writing (and reading legal documents), and because my workload is unpredictable (no way to plan for when news breaks), I’ve struggled to keep up momentum on my long-term writing projects over the last couple years. This is because I’d feel antsy to get going on work in the morning, not ever knowing how much I’d have for the day, and by the end of the day I’d often be either too exhausted to give my writing a good go, or I’d end up working later than I intended and squeezing out time I’d meant for writing.

Through no effort of my own, the universe gave me a gift a couple months ago when my boss called me and asked if I’d be willing to work later hours.

Now, most people are not especially pleased when they get a request like this. But for me, a lightbulb immediately went on.

If I’m consistently working later hours, versus my previous hodge-podge schedule in which my workday ended at 5:45 some nights and 9 pm others, then I’m justified in consistently starting later.

If I’m consistently starting later, I can grab time for writing in the morning, before the day gets away from me, and not feel guilty that I haven’t started work yet.

I told him I was in, as long as the later nights meant I would not be expected to be available until later in the morning. He readily agreed.

I noticed the change in my writing almost immediately. I felt myself soaring through my work-in-progress. When it came time to submit my labors to my critique group, I found myself with more than double the “page limit” the group allows so that we can have time to read and consider all submissions. I was giddy with excitement to be cutting my submission in half, when I’ve had so many months of barely scraping together a paltry 6 pages.

Mind you, I’m still behind the pie-in-the-sky goals I set for myself last summer, but that doesn’t bother me much because the main thing I want is momentum. I don’t mind if I’m not moving forward as quickly as I once hypothetically thought I could as long as I am moving forward consistently — it’s that feeling of stalling and starting that really gets to me after a while, and starts to make me feel like a failure as a writer. At my current rate, I think I’ll be done with my current revision by the end of the summer, which will leave my imagination blissfully unencumbered when November rolls around.

Now, in this instance I got lucky. This fortuitous change-of-schedule landed in my lap without my seeking it out. But even if a change in your work schedule is not doable, consider changing your schedule up in other ways if you find yourself in a writing rut. Write at a different time of day, or a different place: lunch breaks, early mornings, and writing time snatched while riding the train are all viable alternatives to pushing it back till “everything else” is done. Back when I was working a 9-5, I managed to shake myself out of a rut by waking up earlier than was my habit and writing before my morning shower. That bleary-eyed, crammed-in-before-work writing was disjointed and messy, nowhere near my best work even where first drafts are concerned, but it gave me the momentum I was also lacking at the time, and it got me closer to the part of the writing process I really relish: revision.

I had forgotten about this little trick. I’m glad my boss gave me cause to remember it.