We hear it over and over again – to be successful writers, we need to follow a routine.
Recently, I was reading The Daily Routines of Great Writers to get some tips. It was depressing.
First, I’m not that great a morning person. Unlike so many famous writers and creative people, I don’t do 6 a.m. The only reason I see 4 a.m. is if the cat or dog wakes me up. (Usually it’s the cat, which means the dog needs to go out.) If that happens, I’ll crawl back into bed for several more hours.
Second, I’m not big on exercise. I do not run! Oh, I like a good walk or digging in the dirt in an attempt to try to grow something. I consider vacuuming the house my workout.
For me, setting up a routine is easier said than done. I have tried to set up a writing schedule and failed miserably. I’m just not that good at fitting my life in to time slots. I really struggle with this. Somehow, I manage to still get things done.
I have come to recognize the things that sap my productivity, and I work each day to avoid them. Maybe it’s a “negative routine.”
Once I am out of bed (for good), I make coffee and sit down in my office. I used to cheat and work in the living room, but the television is too much of a temptation. The TV is the single worst siphon of productivity and the biggest suppressor of creativity.
Once I set myself up in the office, I might turn on the radio. I don’t usually notice whether it’s on or off, but sometimes I do need the background noise.
I’ll start writing something, anything to get the juices flowing. Once I get into something, I lose track of time and just keep going until I get to a natural stop. This usually ends up being two or three hours later. During that time, I may only stop to refill my coffee cup or visit the bathroom. (I’ve been known to forget the dog outside.)
When I’m working, I need to consciously, viciously avoid the Internet. TV is horrible, but the Internet can lead me off into unproductive wanderings like nothing else. It makes me think I’m getting lots done when I’m just wasting time.
“Ooooh! Look at that shiny tidbit of information! Oh, and that one!”
I leave e-mail review and reading news sites for the afternoon.
I let the answering machine screen my phone calls, so I don’t pick up unless it is a real emergency or I’m done with what I’m working on.
I have checklists to help me stay focused on what is most important. If not, I’d just do the fun stuff and avoid the “hard” things like the plague.
I work well under deadline pressure, so I convince myself I have early or “phony” deadlines to keep things moving.
No matter what, I do make sure I spend at least 30 minutes every day writing something for myself. (Client projects and journal entries usually don’t count.) I also try to read something about writing each day.
Does all this seem like a routine? What do we mean by “routine”? Hey, I’m open to any suggestions. What do you do for your writing routine?
One thought on “A Writing Routine? Help!”
I like to map it out, with some room for flexibility. Typically on a Sunday or Monday I’ll create a table for the week, and I’ll break up my weekly goal of X hours spent on writing, (currently 10), into daily units, ranging from 1.5 to 3, with the higher number being a stretch goal.
Some weeks I know that Wednesday is going to be a long day, other times I know that I have all day events planned for Saturday, so I try to adjust.
If, on Tuesday, I just feel dog tired then I may look at my plan and say “I’ll add another 2 hours to Friday,” or I may say “This week I’m not going to make it,” and make a notation to add 2 hours to next week’s plan to balance it all out.
Most days I actually prefer to work late into the night, after all my other responsibilities are resolved, or formally postponed until tomorrow. It also has the added bonus that most people are either tired and relaxing in the evening, or out being social, so there’s less chance for interruption. I sit at a computer, or with a pen and notebook on hand, put on a playlist of lyric-less music, mostly soundtracks, and start writing. Doesn’t matter what I write, only that I’m writing. Eventually, through trial and error, I’ll find the right words.
I love night time. The world gets quiet, and there’s more room for one’s own thoughts, without the distractions of a busy world. Of course sometimes we need that busy world to help revitalize our inspiration. In the end it’s all about balance.
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