Q&A: How did you decide on your daily dedicated writing time?

My friend and fellow writer, @deedottiedot, contacted me yesterday via Twitter and asked, “How did you decide on your dedicated (daily) writing time? I NEED to do this.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I have been writing (as of this morning) for 119 consecutive days.  Aside from writing, I am also a citizen social scientist who studies human performance.  Most recently, I have been closely examining the finer points of habits and rituals.

Before I chose a time, I asked myself two questions starting with, “What specific outcomes did I want for my writing that I can only attain by writing every single day?”  There are many reasons to write daily, the key is finding your reason, your need — preferably one that doesn’t use the word “should.”  Second, I had been writing for years, so I asked myself, “Why is daily writing important now?”  I also noted what I was willing to give up to get the gains.

Writing had to become a habit.  Today, here’s what it looks like.  If I haven’t written by lunch, I feel weird and have assure myself that I indeed made special arrangements to write later in the day.  There are extremely successful writers who write at 3, 4, or 5 in the morning.  I can write in the early morning but the truth is, I could also sleep through easily.  I needed to a choose a time of day where I would see that appointment approaching, make the conscious choice to put whatever I was doing aside, and make my writing the priority.  My big constraint here was to find a time that was early enough in the day so I still had enough mental and emotional energy to be productive.

I often discuss the writing process with many of my creative friends and colleagues.  (And on this blog.)  And once again, I turned to a friend who wanted to make daily writing a part of her life too.  We looked at our calendars and chose a mutually convenient time.  Every day – birthdays, holidays, weekends, weekdays – we check in just before our appointment via text.  She sets the timer and we write.  We live in different cities and time zones but this still works.  After we’re done, we evaluate, celebrate, and commiserate via a brief exchange of text messages.  Did we finish what we set out to do?  Some sessions are better than others.  Then we go on with our respective days.

My measurement of progress and success varies.   For the days when I’m working simultaneously with my writing partner, I give myself a win for showing up and writing without being distracted for the whole time.  For the days when we are writing separately but still checking in — I give myself a win either on my amount of distraction-free writing time or the number of pages written.  It really depends what I’m working on at the time, but you get the gist.  On the days that I travel then referee a roller derby game, my schedule is kind of weird, and I measure my progress strictly by page count.

Ultimately, in spite of my life, I get something creative done every day.

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