Every client for the last ten years has been what I call a “semi-pro” writer. They took their writing seriously, that’s the professional part. But writing was not their day job, so they had to squeeze their writing into an already packed schedule. If you’re a semi-pro writer trying to get a book done, here’s how to get the most from your precious writing time.
Make Writing Time A Habit
Don’t expect to get much done if you write whenever you find the time. Make writing a regular part of your life. Schedule your writing work for the same time every day or every week. A favorite time for my clients is Saturday morning.
Write in the same place every time. Pick a spot where noone will interupt you and where you can minimize distractions.
Use the same tools every time. For most people, that includes a laptop and a printer. Several clients use either an easel pad or a whiteboard to help them work out ideas. If you use a drawing pad or anything else, make sure you have it available when you write.
The goal is for you to get as much quality writing done as possible in the time you’ve scheduled. You’re most likely to do that if you have large chunks of distraction-free time to work.
Don’t use your writing time for anything but writing. You can do other things at other times. Replenish supplies. Do your research. Scribble notes about things to say. Capture ideas about your book and its contents. Whatever you do in that other time, show up for your scheduled writing time ready to write and nothing else. I mean it, NOTHING ELSE.
A Model Writing Session
I call this a “model” because it’s worked for most of my clients, but not for all. Start with this, and if it works, keep using it. If not, try something until you get something that works for you.
Develop a starting ritual. One biographer suggests that Ernest Hemingway sharpened a certain number of pencils before he began work each morning. When I set up and close off my writing space, I put on my playlist for writing work, and do a few physical exercises before I start.
Most people do their best work in blocks of 50-60 minutes. Many of my clients found that they were winding down on their writing efforts as they came up on the 50-60-minute mark. You may find the same thing. You also may find that working for longer or shorter stretches works best for you.
If you have time for more than one writing block during your session, separate your blocks with breaks of 10-20 minutes. The best breaks are something different. If you sit down when you write, stand up for your break or take a walk. Household chores are great breaks.
End your writing session when you know what you will do next. That way, when you write again, you’ll know where to start and what to say. I like to make a list of other things to do between writing sessions before I quit.
If you’re a semi-pro writer, squeeze the maximum value out of every writing session. Make those sessions a habit. Put them on your calendar before you put other things in. Then learn your unique process for a great writing session. Use it every time.