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By Michael Schilf · December 7, 2010
I talk about this a lot – simply because a lot of the time, people just don’t do it. And that is professional suicide. You have to schedule your writing time and protect it like you would your own child. Then stick to it – like crazy glue. Because the writer’s schedule is the writer’s salvation.
Almost everyone who is really good at something finds that success because they practice their profession daily. It’s not like the Olympian just shows up for the race. Four years of preparation can go into a single sprint that lasts less than ten seconds. Dedication is the key. You must show up every day and do it – whether it’s the 100-meter dash or the next “Great American Novel”. Being a writer – paid or not – is absolutely a job, so treat it like one. Be accountable. Be responsible. Be on time. Don’t call in sick. Show up and write – Everyday!
This is no secret. Most of the best authors schedule their writing, and it’s that dedication that makes them good. Even the “Father of American Literature” Mark Twain famously wrote every day between 8:30AM and 5:00PM from his writing studio at his home in Hartford, Connecticut, reading what he wrote each day to his children and wife after super. Apparently, Twain needed critical feedback too.
Now I understand that structuring a 40-hour writing workweek may be a fantasy for most people, but everyone has at least one hour a day. You just have to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice. Watch TV a little less, get the kids in bed on time, and yes, try waking up earlier and knock out a few pages before the sun rises. Whatever you decide, you must make it routine.
Just think, without that kind of discipline, we may never have been blessed with some of the treasures Twain completed during his seventeen years at Hartford: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).
Obviously, we must give credit where credit is due – Mark Twain was a colossal talent, but it was his writing schedule that allowed him to maximize that talent. It’s easy to thank Twain for his writing, but what we should really be thankful for is Twain’s dedication to his writing schedule.