This blog was featured on 12/28/2019
Make the Most of the Writing Time You Have
Written by
Alissa Johnson
December 2019
Written by
Alissa Johnson
December 2019

* This post was originally published in January 2018.


My writing partner, Julia, recently told me that when it came to her writing, she had "decision fatigue." On a day to day basis, deciding when to write or if too write felt too hard.

You know what happens when you can't decide what to do or when to do it: oftentimes, you just don't do it.

In this case, I know she found some time to write because we had a deadline to trade work, and she met it. But it probably would have felt better if she'd been more intentional about her writing ahead of time. 
When we're between deadlines, Julia and I often email each other our intention for the week or the weekend: how many days we want to write and if we want to focus on something specific.

We're careful not to set impossible expectations. For example, you'll never hear me say that I'm going to write every single day of the week. By now, I know myself too well for that. I also know that if you set that expectation and miss a day, it's too easy to feel like you failed and then feel guilty. Then, it can be even harder to motivate.

But as Julia was reminded, setting a reasonable expectation frees you up from daily decision making and makes it easier to go with the flow. She finds that when she sets the intention to write four days of the week, she's able to cut herself a break on the days she doesn't write. She accepts it, instead of doing what she did this time around—questioning her decision not to write over and over.

(And the days she does write? Presumably, it's easier to do so because there's less hemming and hawing over whether this is a writing day in the first place.)

If you're experiencing decision fatigue, or you're not using your writing time the way you want, try setting your own intentions: how much do you want to write and what do you want to focus on?

Just remember:

  • Keep the timeframe small. Focus on a week, the weekend, or a few days at a time. As your schedule changes, so does your availability; what works now might not work next week.
  • Be realistic about what you have going on in your life. If it's a busy week, acknowledge that you might not write as much—and that's okay.
  • Remember to leave space and time for not writing. There are, after all, other important things in your life: sleep, getting outside, relaxing. If you run yourself ragged, it's hard to feel creative. 
  • Keep your expectations low. It feels much better to overachieve than to keep missing the mark because you're expecting too much from yourself.

If you'd like, you can freewrite to set your intentions, or do it mentally. It also helps to share them with someone for accountability. Why not start today? Leave a comment below and let me know what intentions you have for your writing over the next few days.

P.S. Ready for a writing breakthrough? Break free from writing rules that don't work and find your way with my FREE three-part series: Inside the Writers Mind. The first insight (and writing prompt) could be yours today.

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  • Marsha Mildon

    Good ideas. I also find that knowing when I write best during the 24 hour cycle, helps me avoid deciding to write when I don't feel like it just to do what I planned. I'm a morning writer, before I have to talk to anyone...

  • Alissa Johnson Writing

    Thanks Juanita! Happy writing!

  • Totally agree that intending to write and keeping it real is a good idea. Thanks.

  • Alissa Johnson Writing

    Jan Morrison, I love the idea of not making room for redecisions! Good luck with your intentions :)

  • Jan Morrison

    One of the practices I put into place for all my disciplines is to not making room for redecisions. If I've carefully and freely decided that I'm going to meditate for at least half an hour a day, when my tricky monkey brain starts negotiating, I remind her that we don't need to think about that as we already decided. I do give myself lots of wriggle room in other ways - where, when, etc... I'm working with a rebellious child after all, and I know how she operates!
    As to my intentions, I will write today and will probably write 2 thousand or so words. I would like to get 90 thousand words by February 16 - Tibetan New Year - and I'm at 78 thousand as of now. I also have some poems to send to a contest today or tomorrow.