You know what? I give up.
I give up trying to make “nine-to-five” as a writer happen.
It’s never going to happen.
It’s more of like an eight-to-four thing. And then a six-to-eight thing. Maybe even a nine-to-ten-thirty-at-night thing. And I’d be lying if I said I’d never woken up before sunrise and started writing, fully caffeinated, before 5:30 a.m.
I’ve been experimenting off and on with my schedule over the past year or so. I’ve tried doing the bulk of my work early in the morning. Then in the middle of the day. Then later in the evening. I’ve tried working fewer hours each day, but six or seven days a week. I’ve tried working four 14-hour days and taking Friday through Sunday off.
As important as schedules are, I have some bad news for you.
No matter how hard you try, your working hours aren’t ever going to be suitable to the non-creative human.
Your family will have to learn how to deal.
Your friends will have to learn to deal.
And of course, you will, too.
There have been moments over the past few months where, at ten at night, I’ve thought, “Wow, I really want to write for a half hour or so right now.” But I’ve refrained, because I’d established that those were not “suitable” working hours.
Who cares? Writers write. Or they’re supposed to. Does it really matter when or where we do it, as long as we do it?
I love routines as much as many other writers do. But I’m learning more and more that, sometimes, they’re just not always going to work. You might work from five to nine at night two weeks in a row and then all of a sudden, you just want to spend a week watching Hulu during those hours instead.
It’s not the end of the world if your schedule is super weird. I’ll be honest, I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to stick to the same writing hours (outside of my full-time job). And I’ve had to deal with all the guilt that bubbles up when I’m just not at the top of my game during those hours some nights.
You’re going to have to make it work. And it’s not always going to. You’ll have to shift things around unexpectedly. Every once in awhile you’ll wake up at 2 a.m. so desperate to get an idea out on paper that you won’t end up falling asleep again until the next night.
In all this, at least remember that you’re not alone. Even when things are going well, we’re all doing our best to go with the flow here. Write as often and however much we can. Hope our loved ones understand that creativity sometimes doesn’t have a set bedtime or respond well to any sort of preset restraints.
As long as you get the writing thing done, and you’re happy, and you’re taking care of yourself and spending time with the people who love you, don’t stress so much about those occasional days your routine goes completely off the rails.
Some order is necessary. But you’ll figure out what works best in the moment. Believe in yourself. Try not to let your brain wear you out too much. Have fun. Write on.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.