Writing Schedules Are Overrated

T.S. Lowry

Looking up successful people’s schedules is a rite of passage.

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Despite wanting to know when my favorite authors write in hopes of somehow taking what works for them and adapting it to my writing routine, I’ve concluded that I’ll never have a set writing schedule. The sooner I finally accept that, the better. But seriously — because I’ve been having this conversation for years.

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My friends and family members know all about my writing schedule woes. It comes with the territory of creating a new schedule every week and telling them about it. I’ve tried everything. Morning writing, 9-to-5, night writing. At times, it all works. But mostly, nothing works. No matter what the genre or length of the project, it appears I’ll never craft the perfect schedule.

I’ve written in smaller shifts, as well as had a staff writing position. Each usually works until the job becomes stale Doritos or I don’t feel like writing during that allocated time. I still want a bite, but I also don’t mind throwing away the bag’s broken contents and dust.

I’ve been gifted with the present that’s having all day to write at my leisure. Yet I still spend a good portion of my time thinking about writing and not knowing what to write about. I create the perfect schedule at the moment just to realize it’s rubbish when it’s time to work. (I also do this with exercise routines!)

There are times when I have nothing to say in four hours. There are times when I have more to say even after four hours yet stop because of some random passage Ernest Hemingway wrote down decades ago. And because I felt the need to stick to a schedule. It works both ways.

Sometimes making money is enough motivation. Other times, a good idea leads to a completed essay in one sitting. But this concept of fighting with a schedule and feeling bad when I don’t execute it — while always thinking about schedules — is exhausting. I’m exhausted.

Creating schedules, like most writers, creatives, and professionals will agree, is not doing the work. Doing the work is doing the work.

I thought writing personal essays would solve my scheduling mishaps. I also thought switching from content writing to pop culture writing would make the words a little easier to regurgitate. Hear me out: I thought wrong.

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The same people who preach you need to work at the same time every day are the same people who are falling apart during the pandemic. Although, it appears we’re all crumbling in our own special ways. Likewise, the same people who complain about my schedule when I happily write whenever I desire are the same people who tell me I need a set schedule. The only thing that should matter is that I’m making a living and am fulfilled. Who really knows what happiness looks like but I’m sure making a living and fulfillment are necessary ingredients for the Happy Life Cocktail.

Although I don’t have the luxury of writing when the inspiration strikes — because I’m a full-time writer and have a writing-based income — writing when you’re inspired isn’t a bad concept. One of my favorite self-written articles was crafted on a plane. I took a more practical approach during the editing process. Editing is a pain in the ass because you hate everything you, it appears, vomited on the page. But you need words, sentences, and paragraphs to edit before you can get to this stage and the following stages of writing. Second, third, and perhaps fourth drafts. Publish. Repeat.

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I’m a full-time writer and I have been for a long time. If I don’t write, I don’t make money. I don’t pay bills. I have awkward conversations with the people I love about money. Following my dreams and this chosen path are privileges that I’ve worked my ass off to get. That’s not lost on me.

The problem with having a set schedule is I risk having nothing to say when it’s time to write and everything to say when it’s time to rest. This issue has occurred with content, fiction, and nonfiction writing.

It’s easier to write for a few hours in the morning when I have plans later in the day. You know, plans during a pre-pandemic world when we could casually leave the house and meet friends for a happy hour… without having to worry about wearing a mask… or not wearing a mask… or catching a deadly virus… or not catching a deadly virus, but I digress.

Writing is hard but so is anything worthwhile. We live in a society where things aren’t fun until we’re good at them. We complain about doing something we choose to do yet feel lost and miserable when we’re not doing the thing. Listen: Life is complicated.

But I’m tired of looking up Stephen King quotes for the hundredth time. The same words and wisdom so many of us hold close to our literary hearts were written decades ago. And whether King has changed his schedule or not, his schedule works for him.

Why do I continue to plague my mind by searching the internet for the schedules of famous writers?

When they write is not going to help me become a better or more prolific writer. All this data can and should only be used for inspiration as opposed to set-in-stone rules. We’re all so damn different, which is why I hate how Big Business tries to fit everyone into an out-of-touch bubble. Why should efficient people have to stay at the office for as long as those who aren’t?

I understand I have to write a certain amount of articles per week to make ends meet. Yet there are times when I can’t handle the workload and times when my workload is nonexistent (these times are thankfully becoming a thing of the past). But the point of leaving the office world and working for myself is to have the time and ability to write what I want to write about, or at least as close to that as I can get while making an income. So I can live a more fulfilling and less stressful life. Clearly, I’m totally not stressed.

I’ve come a long way from not knowing what kind of writer I want to be and questioning the glamour that surrounds this profession. I’m not naive: I know I can’t always wait for inspiration because I rely on writing to make a living. It’s not easy to push off something that pays the bills, yet it’s also not easy to continuously schedule it at the same time every day. So I’m done forcing myself to wake up early when I’m a natural-born night owl. Why should I adopt some archaic schedule that was made for people during a time and place I have or will never live in?

I’m done sticking to a writing schedule. But alas, I’ll still probably browse the internet for my favorite writers’ schedules. That is, after all, a rite of passage.

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Just a guy who likes to cruise the aisles at the local 7-Eleven

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