Here’s what happens when you resolve to write every day: you soon slip up.
If you’re not a full-time writer, this is essentially unavoidable. An early meeting at work, a back-up on the subway, an afternoon meeting that runs long — any number of common events will render writing impractical on some days.
This slip-up, however, has big consequences.
It provides evidence to your brain that your plan to write every day will not succeed. As I’ve argued before, the human brain is driven, in large part, by its need to assess plans: providing motivation to act on good plans, and reducing motivation (which we experience as procrastination) to act on flawed plans.
The problem for the would-be writer is that the brain does not necessarily distinguish between your vague and abstract goal, to write a novel, and the accompanying specific plan, to write every day, which you’re using to accomplish this goal.
When the specific plan fails, the resulting lack of motivation infects the general goal as well, and your writing project flounders.
Read the full article here. It's very interesting, and a lot of it makes perfect sense to me. Coincidentally, even before Mom read this to me, I had gradually been making shifts in my own schedule that very nearly mirror the plan Newport suggests. I used to be very set on writing every day, and I tried to write a lot in the evenings and on weekends. But I've realized that weekend and evening writing isn't practical for me; if I tried to write then I'd miss out on joining family activities and/or be distracted by them. So now I try to do most of my work on weekdays, preferably in the mornings, and keep my weekends for relaxation and fun. And I've become much less rigid about my weekday writing time, in that I allow myself to skip a day if it's a particularly busy day around the house, or when unexpected things come up (as they're sure to do now and then).
And you know what? It's working better for me. I've set manageable, short-term goals, usually monthly goals, and I've completed several of them using this kind of schedule. I think this approach does improve my confidence about being able to finish projects.
Yesterday I completed my January goal: finishing the first draft of my second Mrs. Meade mystery. My plans for what's next have undergone a little shift from what I originally intended—instead of starting a new novel from scratch, I'm going to complete the manuscript of a shorter Western novel I began some time ago. That's my goal for February, extending into March if necessary (depending on how long a book it turns out to be). It's a story I've always thought had potential; I just put it aside because I got stuck in the middle of a conversation and couldn't find my way out of it. Taking time away from the manuscript and coming back to it with a clear mind helped—re-reading the troublesome conversation and a glance at my notes has solved the problem, and I think I know where I want to go from here. I'm looking forward to it!