Setting Limits as a Writer

I always think I’ll write a post when I’m on Whidbey Island on my writer’s retreats, but I never get around to it. Why? Because I don’t set limits.

I’m a big fan of schedules – most people aren’t. I set time limits for myself for writing, but it never ends up being very successful for me. I like schedules, but it doesn’t mean I adhere to them very well.

I often schedule blocks of two hours on my calendar for writing in the morning at 7am. I have not yet once sat down to write for a full two hours at 7am. I usually fit it in later in the day when I “feel” like it. I realize that this isn’t the most productive way to write. For some people it’s not about productivity, and that’s okay too. I’m not saying my way is the right way, since clearly it’s not always working too well for me.

Recently, I’ve started setting limits on words. I’ve read advice on setting limits on words or setting limits on time. I have always chosen two hours because that’s a Pomodoro. (A Pomodoro is four sessions of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break.) But, I look at it two hours just seems like a long time. Most of the time it doesn’t take me that long to write what I need to write.

A lot of people write with word limits, but there are people who recommend time instead because sometimes you just have those “staring out the window” days that contribute to your writing in a different way. I’m a big fan of staring out the window and brewing a story.

Right now, I go by story. One story (usually between 1200-2500 words) is what I do in a day. After I finish my short story binge and go back to novel writing, I’ll likely go by chapter or word count.

I think it’s important to have a daily limit.

I’ve been writing without limits, meaning I’ll just use all my free time to write – but usually I end up procrastinating and I get nothing done at all. But, if I say to myself that I’ll write just one story, one chapter, and be done for the day, it’s incredibly liberating.

I’ve been inching closer to getting all my writing done in the morning, then having the afternoon and evening to read, play video games, or blog. Before, I was going with the idea that I’d write as much as possible, so I never did anything but write. I wasn’t more productive, and there was always this voice whispering in my ear that I should be writing. As a result, I didn’t blog for a long time, and I nearly stopped reading altogether.

Now, I know I don’t have to spend every free moment writing. I can knock it out in the morning and go through the rest of the day knowing that I did my writing for the day. Sure, I can do more in the evening if I’m up for it, but it’s good to have a stopping point, even if I’m on a writer’s retreat. (Spoiler, you can do things other than write on a writing retreat.)

Having a stopping point really created more joy in writing for me.

My life is not all about writing, though it’s usually what I’m thinking about, and often reading about.

I’ve finished my writing for today, and now I can devote my time to other pursuits, like napping and painting. (If you don’t nap, you really should if you can – but set limits!)

Do you have a stopping point with your daily writing? What is it?

4 thoughts on “Setting Limits as a Writer

  1. I agree that schedules are vital. This coming from a guy who hates them and consistently fails to utilize them at every opportunity. I wish I could do two hours in the morning every day. I probably could, but that would make the work day drag……………… I tend to fill in whenever I have the chance. Deadlines keep me in line for the most part.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, deadlines are essential for me, even self-imposed ones. I usually try to tell someone else about my deadline so I can’t try and get out of it. And for me, writing in the morning is actually very invigorating and I feel my work day goes better because I’ve already accomplished something important for the day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a good accomplishment. My issue is making coffee, sitting down on the couch for it to brew, then falling asleep on the couch… so the coffee gets reheated later. I’m also up at 5, so I guess if I go back to sleep for a little bit, it’s really just bad news for my coffee.


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