Being productive by segmenting your writing

Things are picking up for me as far as writing assignments go. Articles, blog posts, marketing materials, it’s coming fast and furious. As a freelance writer, I’m thrilled. This is, after all,  how I put shoes on my kids’ feet.

As a memoirist, though, I’m not so thrilled.

I’m finding less and less time to do the work I *want* to do, as opposed to the work I *have* to do (until I become independently wealthy, that’s just the way it works, folks.) And with summer quickly approaching (one of my worst times of the year with regard to productivity because all the kids are home) I need to quickly put a writing system in place.

2013-06-10_11-49-47_550In the Spring 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest Yearbook –Writing Basics, Pamela Redmond Satran in her article – Juggle like a Pro – attempts to tackle this very problem.

One of her bits of advice includes:

In the morning I wrote only fiction, and in the afternoon only non-fiction. To make myself switch, I set an alarm clock for noon.

For those of us who have the luxury (and I kid no one, it is a luxury to be able to write all day) this sounds like a fairly good approach.  I’m a big believer is establishing gates that can be closed until opened around writing tasks. At any time, you’ll find at least 2 timers in my office, the 30 minute mark so well worn as to be almost unreadable on all of them.

Although I may not be able to devote the *entire* morning to my personal writing, I can certainly devote a few hours first thing. It’s just that I will need to gate that time off. Nothing else during, except what is allowed.

As far as Satran’s fiction writing (which equates to my non-fiction memoir writing) she also refreshingly suggests that you set writing goals not by word or page count, but by the scene.

…15 weekly pages (two to three scenes) in order to finish a first draft in six months.

This approach, along with segmenting your time based on your types of writing, sounds highly doable to me. While I can’t commit to writing 2000 words a day (something *always* comes up) I can commit to finishing a scene with a beginning, middle, and end – a story unto itself – using the time I’ve set aside in the morning. It might take a day, it might take several, however, I can  envision the goal of a scene with more clarity than the goal of 10,000 words at the end of the week.

This summer it will be start, write and finish, and then on to my other work for me. And hopefully with enough of keeping to the gated-schedule, the gods will be good and will allow me to make progress even with all the kids in the house.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (

8 thoughts on “Being productive by segmenting your writing

  1. That’s too funny. I had this exact thought today. I’ve been swamped and unable to keep up, but today I had to stuff scheduled and had to turn in my article and be done by 2pm. I busted my butt and got it done. Then I thought, why don’t I just do this every day and have the afternoon to blog and do personal writing.

  2. Great advice. I have been trying to do just that. Get up early in the morning and write fiction or memoir and then write supplementary readers for school students learning Japanese in the afternoon. It hasn’t been working brilliantly—I think because I don’t use a timer and don’t set a finishing time for it. Planning writing tasks over the period of a week will help too ie setting weekly goals as well as daily. I need to be more realistic too—be sure to set goals that are doable. I will definitely try that! I think I also need to program in the time for shopping, housework etc. Thanks Wendy.

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