Nearly every writing expert maintains that I should schedule my daily writing session, and protect it like an important appointment. (Because it is…right?) By “schedule my writing session,” they mean that I should commit in writing to a specific time and place. Then I must show up at the appointed time and place, ready to write.
This is how appointments work. I understand the concept, and I have no problem making appointments with my doctor, my hair stylist, or my car mechanic. (Well, sometimes I have problems getting around to making the appointments when I should. But once I make the appointment, I keep it, and I do not resent these professionals for requiring an appointment.)
For some reason, writing appointments evoke a completely different reaction. They make me shudder and want to hide. My resistance is irrational, but real.
I have been writing consistently for about three years now. In fact, tonight’s writing session has extended my writing streak to 382 consecutive days. Hmmm….I just looked at my log and, wow, this ties my previous record for consecutive writing days, reached on January 22, 2013. Cool! I definitely need to remember to write tomorrow. Last time I reached 382 days, I forgot to write the next day, and was devastated to see my writing streak end. Almost none of those writing sessions were scheduled in advance for a specific time.
I have generally convinced myself that as long as I was writing daily, it didn’t matter that I failed to schedule the time. My writing streak and my finished dissertation are proof that my system is working. But is it working? Maybe I have been deluding myself. Yes, I am writing, but my failure to plan may be destroying my writing efficiency. (Well, you can’t destroy something that never existed. More accurately, my failure to make writing appointments may prevent me from ever becoming an efficient writer.)
How about a trial period? I should schedule my appointments for a week, and see if it helps. I took a deep breath and pondered my week. What time would work best? I would have to make this tough decision seven times, once for each day. I wavered and gave up. It was just too much.
Would planning one day at a time work? Maybe that would be less intimidating than planning writing appointments for a whole week. I tried it. I sat there with my pen and my calendar, and willed myself to write down a time, in ink. I couldn’t do it. Scratch that. “I couldn’t” is surely a lie. My hand muscles were perfectly capable of grasping the pen and using it to write words and numbers on the paper. “I wouldn’t” is indisputably the truth. Regardless, it didn’t happen. The thought of writing down a time was revolting to me—my mind pushed back, vehemently. It was as if I had walked into a room with a really strong unpleasant odor, and my body pushed back, doubling over and wanting to throw up. That’s how I felt when I thought of committing to a specific writing time.
Why? Why such a strong negative reaction to the notion of scheduling my writing? It makes no sense.
Is my aversion to scheduling writing-specific, or does it apply to other activities? What about running? I almost never schedule the time I run, and I usually don’t decide the mileage in advance. I have never successfully followed a training plan to completion. However, I once followed a marathon training plan for a couple months. I didn’t schedule the exact times of my runs, but I knew approximately when they would occur (10:00 p.m., when my favorite writing venue kicked me out.) During the time I followed the plan, I hit nearly all the weekly mileage targets. Planning my running doesn’t seem to evoke nearly the level of negativity as planning my writing.
Is it rebellion? Not wanting to be told what to do? I love my little Toyota Corolla (238,000 miles and still going strong), which gets excellent gas mileage. But if the government passed a regulation requiring fuel-efficient cars, or incentivizing them in some way, I would be seized by a strong desire to drive a large truck or land yacht—preferably an old rickety one that makes coughing noises and spews blue smoke.
But with writing, how could it be rebellion? The government is not telling me to schedule my writing times, and neither is my employer. The decision about when to write is mine alone.
Perhaps my distaste for writing appointments is tied up with my fear of failure and rejection. Scheduling my writing time sets me up for failure. If I schedule myself to write at 10:00 a.m. and I oversleep, then my day is a failure before I even get out of bed. If my writing appointment is at 2:00 p.m. and I let myself get sidetracked by email, I have failed. I clearly can’t hack it as a writer, so I might as well not even try.
I hoped that writing about it would help me resolve my scheduling revulsion. It didn’t. I still do not understand it, and I have not defeated it. So, at least for now, I will continue as before. As I wake up each day, I will delight in my freedom, knowing I can write at whatever time I choose. No matter how tight the constraints of the day, there is always choice…some scrap of time I can devote to writing, if I wish. Scheduling would rob me of one of writing’s pleasures—the pleasure of choice.