I’m a sucker for a good metaphor. As writers, I’m sure all of you are too. Marathons are great metaphors for pretty much any long term goal you might have.

writing schedule

I got it into my head that I wanted to run a marathon

A real one. With my feet.

When you decide you want to take on something as massively challenging as this, you look for advice from people who have done it. Luckily for me, my best friend had completed her first marathon the year before and was full of information she was ready and willing to share with me. She even pointed me toward a training plan that she had found useful.

Routine and consistency are the keys to success when it comes to accomplishing long-term goals

Whether it’s a marathon or, say, becoming a writer, coming up with a plan and sticking to it is the only way to get there. It’s also one of the hardest things to do. There is a sea of blogs and articles written by people who, for all intents and purposes, are the thing you’re trying to be—a successful writer—dedicated to the topic of the importance of establishing a routine in your writing practice. They pretty much all boil down to one main point: You want to be a writer? Write. A lot.

The marathon training plan we’re following was put together by someone who has done the thing I’m trying to do—run a marathon. You know what it doesn’t say? “You want to run a marathon? Run. A lot.”

Why I don’t like the “just write” approach

How helpful is that advice to anyone really? What does that mean?

Sure, writing every day even for as little as five minutes means that at least you’re writing, but what are you really accomplishing? Do you know how long it would take to be able to run a marathon if you only ran five minutes a day?

Establishing a writing practice is like training for a marathon: it should be designed to push you to reach your goal, but it shouldn’t be the way you do things forever.

Establishing a writing practice requires training, like a marathon. Click To Tweet

Steps for Setting Your Best Writing Schedule

For starters, there is an end to the training: race day. Step One: Pick one for yourself.

How long do you think you’ll need to establish a steady habit? Studies say anywhere between thirty days and three months, but you know yourself better than any book or productivity guru.

Do you think you could do it in a month? Okay, Wonder Woman, go for it! Maybe you’ll need closer to three, six, maybe even a year? That’s cool too. But be specific about when you’re training is going to end.

Based on this end date and your typical schedule, Step Two: Design a plan that you’ll be able to stick to for the duration of your training.

My Current Training Plan

I was meeting up with writer friends on Monday nights and fully intend on getting back to that. This night is my “long run,” as it were. I sit and I write from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. (We do a fair amount of chatting as well, but overall it’s productive time.)

I have also set aside three thirty-minute “short runs” on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. These are the days when my schedule is most flexible. If I write for longer on these days, fabulous! But I give myself at least thirty minutes to get something down.

Sunday is my “cross training” day, the day I do something writing adjacent to help spur my creativity.

I’ve even made this plan official by putting it in my calendar. It has its own color and everything. I don’t know about you, but I have a much harder time ignoring things when they’re in my calendar.

“Cross Training” to Help Your Writing

As far as “cross training” goes, I might do a bit of research if my current project calls for it, but most I read. A lot. Most writers I know are also voracious readers. Other useful activities include: listening to an audiobook or podcast while taking a nice, long walk, listening to music, or maybe going to an art gallery or museum. Basically anything that stimulates your creativity support muscle: your inspiration. Like actual cross training, giving related muscles some exercise ultimately makes each training session easier.

Other useful activities include: listening to an audiobook or podcast while taking a nice, long walk, listening to music, or maybe going to an art gallery or museum. Basically, anything that stimulates your creativity support muscle: your inspiration. Like actual cross training, giving related muscles some exercise ultimately makes each training session easier.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

The entire focus of your training plan should be to give you the tools and prepare you to reach your ultimate goal. For me, the ultimate goal of my training is to have the skill to put words on paper anytime I want to for the rest of my life. Strengthening my ability to ignite my creative muscle on command is therefore an important part of my plan. Maybe your goal is to write a novel? You may have a shorter training period, in which you focus on laying the groundwork, like research, character backgrounds, and plot outlines. Maybe your “long runs” are first drafts of chapters, or short stories that take place in your world or feature your characters.

Maybe your goal is to write a novel? You may have a shorter training period, in which you focus on laying the groundwork, like research, character backgrounds, and plot outlines. Maybe your “long runs” are first drafts of chapters or short stories that take place in your world or feature your characters.

This is just another way to approach creating a thriving writing practice. It won’t work for everyone, but I’ve never heard anyone recommend coming it at it this way. The best part is that it is completely customizable to your goals and schedule.

What are some of your ideas for what a successful training plan might look like for you? 

Let’s chat about it this Wednesday at 6 p.m. PST on Periscope! Join me and an amazing group of writers for our weekly #writerlyWednesday chat where we’ll be discussing the ways we’ve established our own writing practices.

PS. You’ll notice the title of this post says “Part One,” that’s right there will be more. I told you, I like metaphors.

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Author: Whynott Edit

Hi, I'm Megan! My mission is to help underrepresented writers refine their words, strengthen their skills, and tell the best possible versions of their stories.

If you have questions/comments/concerns about writing, editing, or publishing, or want to suggest a post topic, feel free to reach out to me! megan[at]whynottedit.com

Put in your two cents

17 thoughts on “How to Set the Best Writing Schedule for You (Write Like a Marathoner, Part One)

  1. Thanks, these are some good reminders!

    Posted on November 4, 2015 at 10:28 pm
    1. My pleasure! You’ll have to let me know if any of them work for you. 🙂

      Posted on November 5, 2015 at 1:04 pm
  2. I don’t consider myself a writer, but I need to start because I do write a lot of stuff! This is a great reminder for me to get into the habit of writing daily, regardless of whether I “have to” or not. Thanks for sharing in the FTF group!

    Posted on November 5, 2015 at 6:15 pm
    1. Definitely! I think writing a lot means you’re totally allowed to consider yourself a writer. ????????????

      Posted on November 5, 2015 at 9:33 pm
  3. Makes me feel better about my writing process! I will treat it like training for a marathon 🙂

    Posted on November 5, 2015 at 7:11 pm
    1. I’m happy to make you feel better haha. Let me know if it’s helpful! It made sense to me but I’m curious to know how others feel. ????

      Posted on November 5, 2015 at 9:30 pm
  4. I love that you do it socially. I’ve been getting together with a friend at Starbucks 1-2x/week to work; he usually blogs and I do development and emails. I could totally see myself doing this to write… I used to be in a couple of creative writing groups. OOOH, GURL, YOU’RE MAKING ME THINK I SHOULD START ONE AGAIN…

    Posted on November 5, 2015 at 10:30 pm
    1. Do it! Do it! Do it!

      So happy to have inspired. 🙂

      Posted on November 6, 2015 at 8:20 am
  5. Setting aside the time to work is esse’t ntial to getting going. I find that I get more done when I have a set time to do work and only work on the stuff that needs to get done. Good post!

    Posted on November 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm
    1. I totally agree. I’m 100 percent more likely to complete a task if it’s in my calendar!

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

      Posted on November 8, 2015 at 6:09 pm
  6. Love this post! I’m sure your excellent advice works for artists too! And all of us with blogs are writers even if it’s not official right?

    Posted on November 7, 2015 at 7:40 pm
    1. Totally! To both points haha. I think this would work for anyone looking to get their creative juices flowing, and I totally think having a blog makes you a writer. In fact, I think if you feel like you’re a writer then you are!

      Posted on November 8, 2015 at 6:11 pm
  7. I really like the idea of one long”ish” writing session along with some daily writing sessions! I’ll be incorporating a longer session this Monday too!

    Posted on November 8, 2015 at 4:21 pm
    1. Fantastic! Scheduling chunks of time everyday just isn’t feasible for most people, but I think dedicating some serious time when you can is important. 🙂

      Posted on November 8, 2015 at 6:12 pm
  8. Stumbled on this via twitter and just reading it makes me shaky. Because it makes sense, and I KNOW I need to do it, but also a part of me thinks it’s easier not to try than to try and fail.

    Posted on May 4, 2016 at 8:43 pm
    1. Oh boy do I understand that feeling Catherine! The concept of a training plan is actually meant to combat exactly that feeling.

      Breaking down your big goal into smaller, sustainable ones seriously lowers the chances of failing. If I had started my marathon training by going out and trying to run 26 miles on day one, I absolutely would have failed. It probably would’ve been pretty spectacular too! But since day one was more like two or three miles, I survived!

      Writing a whole book or writing everyday for the rest of your life might seem like huge challenges, but writing three pages or writing everyday for one week are much more doable. The best part is: once you get going, the feeling of potential failure starts to go away.

      I absolutely believe in you! If you want to talk more about this, you can feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me at megan[at]thewhynottblog[dot]com

      Posted on May 6, 2016 at 9:19 am