Earlier this week I sat down and forced myself into working on what has to be at least my fifth attempt at at publication schedule, incorporating books both under my name and those that will be coming out under a pen name. The aim, as always, was accountability. Putting deadlines on paper, whether or not I announce them publicly, is supposed to hold me to writing and releasing at a reliable pace. This way, I can estimate based on my (usually overly optimistic) word count projections when I’d be finish drafts, when I’d be editing, when I’d be handing things off to beta readers, and most everything else in between. At least in theory. And I would LOVE to stick to this schedule. Love, love, love. But this isn’t the first publishing schedule I’ve made. I’ve met me, and my history with self-imposed deadlines is less than stellar. And still, I’m not quite ready to give up on them, because what’s the alternative?
When it comes to writing, or any creative endeavor, how realistic is it to plan ahead? Some people would argue that this defeats the purpose of art, and that you’ll never be able to truly plan for inspiration to strike. I’m not a fan of that particular attitude. Because like it or not, sometimes writing comes down to needing to treat your art like the job that it is in order to get things done. Too often my problem with production schedules isn’t the schedule itself but my own lack of follow through and how quickly that can snowball into feeling like I’ll never get caught up on anything ever again.
Then is the answer to say no to scheduling and deadlines entirely, and to let your muse be your guide? Writing when the mood strikes and letting a project take as long as it needs to in order to reach completion? Sometimes, sure. There are times when every one of us needs to remember why we love the craft of writing, or to let a story develop. The trick is never letting your muse/inspiration become the one calling the shots, because ultimately, if you’re looking to build a career writing books, you need to be the one behind the wheel, deciding when and where you write the stories that you need to. The muse can be fickle, and if that’s what you’re counting on in order to get your next book out in the world, you could be waiting an awfully long time. But let’s face it, inspiration is what you make of it, and it can be far too easy to use lack of inspiration as an excuse not to put our asses in our seats and get things done.
And so here I am, making yet another production schedule, promising myself again that this time I’ll see it through–but this time, I’m leaving some wiggle room, allowing for my own failures as a human, allowing for myself to not always be on my game and working at top speeds. I’m leaving a little room for inspiration and seeing where that takes me. Hopefully, it’s the best of both worlds since having a schedule, having deadlines I chose for myself is always going to be better (for me) than simply seeing where the wind takes me and hoping I can count on myself to say no to Netflix. In the end, it’s not about the process you use to write your books.Whether you’re writing a set amount of words every day, getting it done at the same time every day, or writing in spurts on your phone as lines and plot points come to you, what’s always going to be most important is your dedication to telling your story.
Maybe it’s time we all stop overthinking how we write and focus instead on why we write and what it is we’re hoping to accomplish with our stories.