Creating a writing schedule (or any other kind of schedule for that matter) can be the difference between getting your book finished or not. The problem is what to do if your writing schedule falls apart.
Keeping to any schedule is always a challenge; there are bound to be good days and not such good days, days where everything is smooth and feels easy and days when the work feels hard and you get stuck. Getting over one difficult day is one thing, getting over a more long-term disruption or slump can be much harder. When you look at your schedule after you have had a major break in your work plans, it can seem as if it is laughing at you.
Of course, you may find your getting off course in a less dramatic way. Perhaps you miss a day a week for no other reason than tiredness or random events that suck up your time, perhaps you never really get going with it at all.
So, how do you keep to your writing plan no matter what happens in the rest of your life?
Be flexible with your schedule
First of all, a plan is just that, a plan. A schedule is by necessity a guide – an ideal. It is not essential to keep to every part of it for it to work. It is there to hold you accountable, yes, but also to give you a work plan. It means you can look at your schedule and know what you need to do today. That can be helpful in itself when you are busy and don’t what to have to figure out what your next move is each time you sit down to write your book.
If the schedule is not working for you, rework it. If you have given yourself too much to do your schedule will start to feel overwhelming. If you miss bits, you will feel constantly behind. If this is the case, either give yourself more time (if you can) or take tasks out of your schedule. Perhaps you need to divide your book up and write two or three smaller books? If you have included a range of other jobs in your writing schedule, take them out and give them to others to do so you can concentrate on writing your book.
Figure out what is really stopping you
It’s easy to write plans and schedules – and writing them can make you feel as if you are moving forward. But when your schedule has fallen apart and you cannot do the work for whatever reason, you are better off stopping, taking a breath and figuring out what the real problem is. The truth is you are not lazy or inept. You are not an arch procrastinator or incapable of keeping to a schedule. These are all lies you are telling yourself so you don’t have to deal with the real issue. That ‘real issue’ can have a range of sources:
- Deep down there is something about your book that you are not sure about, so you find it very difficult to write it. This is perfectly natural and you are not bad, wrong or incapable because of this, you simply need to work a few things out.
- You have revised bits of your book and written bits and got totally confused about it. You now have a publication date and schedule that makes you hyperventilate because all you can see is a mess and you can’t see a way of solving it.
- There is something else you want or need to be work on so you feel constantly compromised. Whenever you sit down to write your book, all you can think about is the other project. Take a Time Out and make a calm decision about which project you need to finish first then act accordingly.
- You don’t want to write this book any more but you have committed to it for some reason and you now feel it is something you have to do rather than feeling that you are motivated to do it. Either ditch this book or sit down for a very limited time period and write it. Send it to an editor and get it out of the way!
- For some reason, every time you sit down to write, you just feel beset with doubts, confusion and an irrational anxiety about the whole thing. Be assured that fear and uncertainty are the natural bedfellows of every writer. Your monkey is on your back a lot of the time when you start out. However, the more you write and the more you commit to sitting down at your scheduled time to write the faster you will get writing. First of all, simply commit to sitting at your desk (or wherever else you like to work) and open your document on your computer or with a pad and pen in hand. Allow yourself to be there for a minimum of 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Get used to being in the seat of the writer. Gradually, you will find yourself writing. As to your schedule, set it aside for a few weeks until you are ready to schedule again.
Your plan or schedule is a plan. It is not set in stone and it is not there to beat you up but to keep you moving forward. If you are fired up and ready to write, it will be a huge support. You will have no trouble keeping to it or adapting it to account for the distractions and challenges that life and work present.
Problems with keeping to your schedule are common but once you figure out why your schedule has fallen apart, you can move forward again. Be honest with yourself but don’t use your schedule as a stick to beat yourself with, otherwise you will simply slip back further.
There is always a way forward, and you will find it if you are prepared to admit that no plan is perfect and that you don’t have to be either.
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