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This post originally appeared in Medium in October 2020.
During the past seven months, our world has been rocked. And one thing I know for sure is that many of us are having trouble doing creative work. Perhaps it is a why-bother feeling. Perhaps it’s a who-will-care thought. Perhaps it’s just…everything.
That said, I believe that for those of us so inclined, writing can be an act of radical self-care, especially during challenging times. After leaving my new middle-grade novel work-in-progress to languish for several months, I decided to get back to work. But to do so, I needed to walk the line between giving myself too much grace and pushing myself to write when everything else was telling me to bury my head under a blanket.
If you’re ready to get back into the writing mode, I invite you to ask yourself five questions to find the best time of day to schedule a writing session.
The ideal situation is that we are able to schedule a writing session where we typically have the perfect energy level, the perfect work space, the perfect amount of time, the perfect lighting, the perfect everything, right? And we all know that “ideal situations” are not always possible. So what we’re going to do is take our ideal circumstances and then find the closest thing we can in the reality of our daily lives.
Question 1: What is my ideal energy level for a writing session?
My answer to this is calm and awake. Perhaps yours is energetic, focused, or caffeinated. The beauty of this and the other questions is that YOU get to decide.
Question 2: At what times of day do I usually have that kind of energy?
My answer to this question is based on lots of years of trying to write at different times of day. If I try in the middle of the day, I have too much on my mind and I’m definitely not calm. If I try in the wee early hours, I am calm but struggle to keep my eyes open. So the times of day when I have calm and awake energy is mid-morning and late evening.
Question 3: What absolutely has to be done before I can write?
My answer to this question is that I need to be hydrated and I need to have moved my body, even if it’s just a little stretching, I also need to have no dirty dishes in the sink. Believe me, all other housework can fall by the wayside, but that one thing is a particular thorn in my side.
The flip side of this question is what shouldn’t be done before I write? My answer to this is watching the news. Full stop.
Question 4: How long, on average, can I write without losing steam?
When we start to lose steam, writing becomes a struggle. When it becomes a struggle, it becomes something we start to avoid doing. The honest answer to this question for me is about an hour. At the end of an hour, I usually am enough in the flow that I’m looking forward to the next writing session, but am also ready to be done.
So now that we’ve asked these questions about energy level, times of day that match the desired energy level, and writing stamina, we can look at our actual schedule. This brings us to our final question.
Question 5: What times of day allow enough time for my writing stamina and allow for the have-tos to get done, while also providing for my ideal energy?
The answer for me was mid-morning. Once my kids are settled into their online classes and my puppy has had a walk, I have about an hour’s wiggle-room before I need to start on my book coaching client work. And that is perfect, because in mid-morning I usually feel calm and awake , and an hour is about my limit for writing stamina.
Ever since I figured this out, I’ve been able to put writing on my schedule in the mid-mornings, usually around 9 a.m., at least four days out of the week. And, more importantly, I’ve been able to see some forward movement on my work-in-progress.
Being a writer is a balancing act between giving yourself grace and pushing yourself to meet your goals. This is a challenging time, but it doesn’t have to shut down your creativity completely.
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