Creating: Writing Structure

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Ready. Set. Write!


No, no. You don't understand. First I must have coffee. And check email.

No, no. You don't understand. First I have to do laundry and run the vacuum.

No, no. You don't understand. First I have to feed the baby.
Okay, maybe I'll let you have that one :)

But the others fall into the category of excuses and procrastination. Yes, they do. Don't argue. I know because I've used all of them. And probably some you haven't come up with yet. Writers brains can get extremely creative.

We've talked about putting writing first. This post is about structuring your life, activities, and time so that writing has its time in your daily and/or weekly schedule.

We're all so busy that two of us could keep busy most days. If we had a clone, I know I have days where my clone would need a clone and still some things wouldn't get done. We live in busy times and are expected to cram every minute full.

I'm probably more guilty of over-scheduling than anyone. My philosophy is to put it on the schedule because if it isn't there, it definitely won't get done. Then I prioritize the schedule. Things at the bottom eventually get to the top.

Live-In Handyman told me the other day that I should never have more than seven items on my daily list. I tried not to laugh in his face. Really I did. Bless his heart, he doesn't have a clue.

Sorry about the little detour. Moving along . . .

What I'm talking about is this: When it's time to write, WRITE. Nothing else. Nothing. You write.

If the only time you can write is in spurts here and there, don't spend those precious minutes thinking about what you want to say next. Leave yourself notes so when you have the next spurt and open your manuscript, you're ready to write immediately.

Or maybe you write during your quiet time, late or early. The same rule applies. Writing time is writing time. It's not news time (who me?), Facebook or Twitter time, or anything else. You write.

Or maybe you schedule morning and afternoon writing times. Those hours may move all around or end up together in the middle of the day. But during those hours, you write.

I write for a block of time. During that time, if I hit a wall or need to look something up, I will take a break or look it up. On that break I set a timer for five minutes. I get my mind totally away from the problem. I may check email or visit a blog. When the timer goes off, I return to the manuscript. Most times, my subconscious has figured out what to do. If not, I write SOMETHING, even if it says 'FIX THIS' in red after what I wrote.

If you make yourself write during these times, whenever and wherever they are, for a month, the process will become automatic. It won't be easy at first, but it quickly gets easier. By the end of the month, at writing time, you will sit down and write because your mind will go straight to the manuscript. Butt in chair, mind on manuscript.

One month. And you'll have built a new writing habit that takes advantage of every minute you have.

Now ... go write :)


Jill Kemerer said…
Live-in Handyman meant 17 to-do items, right?? :)

Great advice--especially about timing our hit-the-wall breaks!
Joanne said…
Oh you said it. Unless we set our minds to it, that writing just won't happen. Such is life, always knocking at the writing door! Great advice here today.
BECKY said…
Why is it that we writers need to hear this advice every-single-day?!I'm kinda, sorta getting the hang of making writing my top priority, AND a few months ago, I started doing the *FIX THIS* in my book, too!! I'll also add bits and pieces of what I want to include, so I don't forget...hopefully, and it's on to other things my mind rather write!! Thanks, Carol! Your blog is always awesome....and oh, I'll post about your need for guest bloggers today!
Talli Roland said…
I find if I don't think about writing and I just sit down and do it, then... I'm not too bad a procrastinator! It's when I actually start *thinking* about writing that it gets bad!
Carol Kilgore said…
Jill - Surely he must have :)

Joanne - Exactly so. At least for me.

Becky - Probably because we get pounded from the other side multiple times every day.

Talli - You've found what works for you. That is THE most difficult part.
notesfromnadir said…
Maybe he thinks that since there are 7 days in the week that you shouldn't exceed that amount? :)

Good advice & I hope those who need it take it.
Lydia K said…
Ack, I'm doing that right now. Checking blogs instead of writing. Drinking tea instead of writing.

But I love checking my blogs!
I'm constantly amazed by the boat-loads of self-discipline it takes to actually write what I'm supposed to be writing. It's really not fair.
Clarissa Draper said…
I found myself leaving writing to the last task of the day and then I was too tired to actually do any writing. So one time I read a post by Elizabeth Spann Craig that suggested getting up early or staying up late. I tried the getting up early. I wake at five now and start writing before I do anything else. I won't even look at email. And when I accomplish my writing tasks for the day, I go and do my web stuff. I feel so much better because my writing (the most important task) gets done and I feel so much more stress free during the day.
Savannah said…
I couldn't agree more Carol. The summer is extremely difficult for me to get any writing done with my son out of school but I know I simply must carve out some blocks of time and get to it!
LR said…
I love writing at night. Seems easier to tune everything out then.
I waste a lot of time in the morning with my leisurely coffee, emails, blogs etc etc. ;)

Planning on taking off a whole week or two completely and devoting it totally to writing.
Sheila Deeth said…
but first... if I don't do the yardwork the weeds will just grow higher and harder to pull. I'm struggling to find time for anything but catching up at the moment, but I'm sure it'll all settle down eventually. Meanwhile I still write little bits in my head.
Holly Ruggiero said…
OK. I'm just going to check a few blogs first. :)
Carol Kilgore said…
Lisa - As always, the key is finding what works for you.

Lydia -, too, now. But it's blog time, not writing time for me for a few more minutes.

Elspeth - I'll drink to that!

Clarissa - I hear you. I don't get up at 5, but I get up earlier than I would without setting the alarm. I have to get that morning session in or I'm toast.

Savannah - You have to make the time. Take an hour and let your son play his DS or something. A special treat for both of you.
Carol Kilgore said…
LR - Ooh, I want to take time off for just writing, too.

Sheila - There ya go!

Holly - LOL :)
Jennifer Shirk said…
It's so true. Like Nora Roberts says: "You don’t find time to write. You make time. It’s my job." – Love that!
Carol Kilgore said…
Jennifer - I love that quote, too.
Great pointers here, Carol! You're right...a month makes a habit. :)
Carol Kilgore said…
Elizabeth - It's amazing about repeating an activity for a length of time. It really works.
Donna Hole said…
Hi Carol *waving* Sorry I haven't been around for a while; between blogger being a pain and my own lack of incentive, I haven't blog hopped for a while.

Ya know, I doubt you could come up with a procrastination excuse that I haven't used - for blogging and writing both. You are so right about making the time, not fitting it in. I schedule loads of time, and wouldn't you know that's when I decide the bathroom can't wait onemore second for cleaning.

Lately though, my fav activity is to research something minor. Spend hours looking stuff up. Shame, shame . .

I need to set myself up a little tiki-hut area and let the soothing ocean sounds wash away all excuses :)

Laura Eno said…
Wise advice. Only 7 items? Bwahahaha!
Carol Kilgore said…
Donna - Blogger attacked me, too. I hope it's finished being ugly. You need a pop-up Tiki Hut with a fan and a rocking sound system so you can pop it up around you when it's your writing time.

Laura - I know. Men.
Creating this kind of writing structure is so very important. I also recently wrote about ways to create a writing routine over at my new blog, The Writing Apprentice.

"Butt in chair" is great advice! =)

-Miss GOP
Carol Kilgore said…
Miss GOP - Thanks for the heads up about your new blog!
Anonymous said…
With so many distractions and other things that need tending to, it's important to make the time to write. I've been feeling unstructured lately--I blame myself. I can't wait for summer vacation so that I can develop a consistent writing schedule.
Janet, said…
It is easy to procrastinate when you work at home writing. So many other things get in the way, especially when your husband is retired and he wants you to go places and do things with him. you get a lot less done.
Carol Kilgore said…
Medeia - I'm the same way. If my writing life is structured, the rest falls into place.

Janet - It's sometimes difficult. Lots of things can make it even more so. We have to stand up and let people know that it's something we can't not do. Try bargaining with him - a trip to the fair for a morning just for you to write with no interruptions.
Anonymous said…
Oh, boy is that true. I did find my notebook to help me with the "leave notes so you're ready to write" aspect! It would be much easier if I could get some sleep, though... Preferably not when I'm writing since that never goes well. ;-)
Hi Carole, Nice to meet you - thanks for stopping by my blog.
Carol Kilgore said…
Kimberly and Melissa - Comments have kept appearing on these older posts this morning. I'm guessing Blogger found another cache to clear - I'm taking that as a positive sign their troubles are over.
Anonymous said…
Great advice. Now I just need to do it! And thanks for stopping by my blog today.
Carol Kilgore said…
LOL Ann. Doing it is usually the hard part :)