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Friday, November 02, 2012

Friday Speak Out!: Establishing a Writing Schedule, guest post by Mary Caffrey Knapke

We all know that writing every day is a key element in the process of growing as a writer. But what happens when, one by one, the days pass and we’re just not able to sit down at the computer or put pen to paper?
There are plenty of days when I’m not even able to scrawl an idea on a napkin. This was especially true over the past year, after my husband and I welcomed a beautiful newborn boy into our family. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and I imagined that I would use the baby’s naptimes to finally finish the essays and stories I’d been struggling with for years. Since I was no longer teaching or taking freelance writing jobs, I thought I’d finally have the time and mental space to develop my creative work.
My friends laughed out loud when I explained my plan, but they let me find out for myself what a truly crazy idea it was. Naptimes were spent doing dishes and laundry, or (more often) trying to get a few z’s of my own. I could barely manage to write a grocery list, much less a short story. As the months ticked by, I found myself getting more and more frustrated about how little time I spent writing.
Now almost a year has passed since our son arrived, and I’ve developed a plan to make sure writing is a constant in my life. In the past two months, I’ve submitted more stories than I did all of last year.
How did my first year of motherhood translate into more short story submissions? Here’s what’s helped me:
1. Make a plan. Every Wednesday evening, I go to a local coffee shop and write for three hours.

2. Stick to the plan. If someone invites me to do something else, I say I’m busy—which is true.

3. Stay focused. No Facebook. No email. Just write.

4. Let go of perfection. In the past, I allowed myself to keep working on stories until they were “just right.” I could spend hours trying to decide on the perfect word or the perfect comma placement. I don’t have that kind of time anymore. (I didn’t then, either, but it was easier to fool myself before the baby arrived.)

5. Learn to steal moments. I’m still not writing daily. But I’ve found that as I stick to my plan, I’m better able to scrawl a note on a napkin or the back of a grocery list throughout the week. Those quick notes turn into fully developed ideas later on.

Maybe you’re juggling parenthood, work, school, or all of the above. Whatever your situation, maintaining a consistent writing plan will help you continue to grow as a writer.
  Mary Caffrey Knapke has worked as a journalist, English instructor, and independent marketing professional. Read some of her work at 
 Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Anonymous5:09 AM

    Oh a couple of those really spoke to me.Limiting Facebook, email, twitter, blog--oh my goodness social media can be time-suckers. I used to be good about spending one day a week in the coffee shop. I loved it. I loved the stimulation of an energy-atmosphere outside my home, and being removed from the tasks of home-- just one more load of laundry, a quick sweep. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Excellent, excellent advice! Thank you for sharing your plan with us. Last night at my critique group, we set a timer and wrote for 2 15-minute sessions without stopping. I wrote 1500 words. I will have to revise them of course, but it's more than I had written on my WIP before then for about a month as I was busy doing marketing and paid writing! A plan works!

  3. I've resorted to trying out apps that lock you from playing on the internet or games for a set period of time, since twitter keeps kidnapping my time.

    It's easier avoiding them when I try to write early morning instead of afternoon.


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