Chip MacGregor

November 25, 2013

Why you need a Writing Calendar


If you’re going to make a living at writing, you’re going to need to consider creating a writing calendar. This is, you need to have a document that details what you’re going to write each day. Think about buying a big paper calendar, and jotting down a writing goal for each day of the month. For example, perhaps on Monday you’re working on chapter five of your book, Tuesday you’re completing the chapter, Wednesday you are creating that article you’ve wanted to do for the writing magazine, Thursday and Friday you are doing a paid edit. In each day on your calendar you’ve got something that focuses you on the task at hand.

To figure out what you put into each day, you look at your “to do” list and do some prioritizing. If you’re one of those writers who has been stuck at “writing 1000 words each day,” but not ever feeling like you’re actually moving forward in your career, you should try this. There’s nothing wrong with having a word count goal, of course, but sometimes it’s better to know which project you’re working on, and how long it’s going to take you. You’re going to have plenty of other things to do, of course — there will be phone calls related to your work, and seemingly endless emails, and forms to fill out, a friend’s piece to critique, some social media to participate in… but at some point you just want your writing life to have a focus — getting these pieces written so I can make some money. 

And that’s why you don’t just write down the goal for each day and stop. You then go back and add in a dollar figure, so each project is seen as contributing to your budget. For example, that article you’re writing for the writing magazine? How much is that paying you? Let’s say it’s $150 — you write down “writing magazine article – $150” into the square on your calendar for that day. The editing project you’re doing? It pays $300, so write that over the Thursday and Friday squares. Oh, and that chapter you’re creating? You’re expecting to sell that book for about $5000, so each chapter has a monetary value of roughly $250. I know that might seem a bit dreamy at first, but trust me — in time, you’ll appreciate knowing what sort of value to put onto your writing efforts.

Figuring out your writing value isn’t hard — if your goal is to make $36,000 per year at writing, you’re trying to make $3000 per month, or $750 per week, or an average of $150 pr day. You won’t find writing jobs that are quite that precise, of course, so you’ll need to think more broadly as you create your calendar. But knowing the overall amount of money you’re trying to generate, and breaking it down into smaller goals, makes the entire process much more doable.

Nothing makes you look at reality more clearly than a number, so figure out the projects you’re going to work on this month, break them into workable units, get them onto a calendar, and attach a dollar figure to each one, so that you have some sense of what you should be making. That’s how you get started at the business of making a living writing.

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  • Hi Chip!
    Lol, were you peeking over my shoulder as you wrote this post? One of my goals for the new year is to make myself more accountable for completing my writing tasks. To that end I purchased a lovely writer’s calendar in book form and I’m currently adding all my tasks, deadlines, and goals for the upcoming year into it. I’m even blocking out times for “social media” to make sure I don’t get too distracted and end up falling behind on my “lofty” goals for 2014.
    To me it doesn’t matter what type of writer you are or what genre you write in…the overall goals are basically the same…increase your daily writing, perfect your current skills, seek the advice/guidance of editors or critique partners more experienced than you in regards to polishing your stories, and get your completed works into the hands of the right people who might be interested in what you have to say. Organization and dedication to the written word will get you where you want to see yourself in the years ahead.
    I wonder if you will EVER write a post I don’t enjoy or learn from? ;~)
    Great post!
    Take care,
    Donna L Martin

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Very much appreciate the compliment, Donna. I can say that having a calendar and a budget made a huge difference in my writing life.

  • Peggotty says:

    Thanks, Chip. This is “just the dinkling,” as my grandma used to say. If I start attaching specific values to each project, I’ll be more likely to plan, follow through and see writing dreams become reality. I loved those big paper calendars in my secretarial life. Why not use them now? 🙂 AND a blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  • Chip, I like the idea of attaching a dollar amount to each goal. I hadn’t thought of doing that on my calendar, although I’ve done it on my financial goals list. Thanks for the great tip! 🙂 It will help me to keep writing goals and financial goals together in one place, making it easier to determine if I’m on target.

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