Making writing a priority

The biggest difficulty I have with my writing is making it a priority. I write when I can, including times when I should really be doing something else. There’s not really a scheduled block of time that I can point to on my daily appointment calendar and say, “This hour is spoken for. I’ll be writing from 10:00 – 11:00, so hold all my calls.” It’s not like I have a secretary that I could say that to anyway, but it would be fun to say, “Hold all my calls,” wouldn’t it?

This is not to say that I don’t write regularly. I have certain writing appointments that I keep every week: my weekly story posted for Friday Flash, and my weekly poem posted by Three Word Wednesday. Having those as fixed points on the weekly calendar has given me the chance to try lots of different things with my writing, my use of language and with a couple of self-publishing ventures. I also write blog posts of varying lengths and complexities, a couple a week.

However, writing my novel is another story. Somehow, it always ends up getting the short end of the stick when I set aside time to write. I’m sure this is because the flash fiction, the poems, the blog posts over at Landless and the blog posts here for Write Anything all share the happy attribute of brevity. It takes me about forty-five minutes to write a thousand word story, another fifteen to edit and polish. It takes twenty or thirty minutes to compose a limerick using a three word prompt. A blog post can be very quick or take a couple of hours if I’m trying to be especially witty or insightful.

Scratch that last, actually. I’m sometimes witty over at Landless, rarely insightful. (We all have our roles to play.)

Anyway, it’s quite different to sit down to a novel and sink into it so that I can write or edit it. It takes me a few moments (sometimes more than a few) to read over the scene I’m working on, consult my notes as to what I want to do and get the words to start flowing. I realize that some people can flick over to their novel WIP and quickly add two hundred words between e-mails. That’s not me.

I should note, however, that I’ve been doing much better in recent months since I changed my writing setup. Instead of opening my novel amid the clutter of my computer’s various demands and distractions, I work on it at a dedicated space, using the old POJ laptop I mentioned recently. No e-mail, no internet, no messages, no other demands for my attention. Just me and the novel, the way it should be.

Until the phone rings.

Stephen King said that what writers really need is not so much a room in which to write, but a door that they can close. When the door is closed, it means you’re working, that you’re serious about writing. It’s as much a psychological framework for yourself as it is a barrier to distractions by family, pets, or other members of the outside world. It’s not only an outward facing message of “Do Not Disturb”. It’s also an inward facing command: “FOCUS”.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be better about scheduling time for my novel. What works for me is deadlines, due dates and defined deliverables, so that’s how I’ll structure it.



Tony Noland is a writer, blogger and poet in Philadelphia, on the East Coast of the United States. He takes his writing seriously, but has somehow gotten a reputation as a funny guy. His work ranges from literary fiction to science fiction, fantasy and horror. Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland, and you can find his fiction at his writing blog Landless.

4 Responses to “Making writing a priority”

  1. Katherine says:

    That’s the seductive thing about the net — nigh-instant publishing!

  2. Thomas Derry says:

    I’ve found that instead of designating a block of time for writing, I sit down at a certain time (1PM usually) and write until I have a certain number of pages. I think it works for me because I’m actually writing instead of looking at the clock.

  3. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I’m easily distracted and also very stubborn so if I know I’m SUPPOSED to be writing, I won’t. If I wait until I want to write, then nothing will stop me. OK so it’s a bit dependent on wanting to do it, but it seems to work out okay.