Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do You Have a Writing Routine?

The word routine has a bad reputation for many aspiring writers. It's almost as bad as the word outline, which I should address in a future post. Some writers think of writing routines as a way to go produce content by going through the motions. However, that's the wrong way to look at writing routines.

The only thing that needs to be routine about a writing routine is that you are consistently bringing your imagination to the table (or desk or laptop) and getting down on paper (or screen). After all, writing is kind of like a sport in many ways. You're trying to stretch and challenge yourself. As with sports, it's easier to reach new heights when you write consistently.

In the most recent free WritersMarket.com newsletter, I asked readers to share their thoughts on writing routines. Below are some of my favorite answers. Please contribute your own thoughts in the comments.

Lila Johnson: My day gets an early morning kick-off. I hit my local 24-hour, staffed gym at 2 a.m. I rock it out for an hour, pretending that I am Janet Jackson getting in shape for my next concert tour. Once I return home, have breakfast and shower, my mind is racing and ready to work. Ideas for articles, or that paragraph for my short story that has me stumped moves forward, and I feel free and productive for the rest of the day.

K. Dawn Byrd: My routine is not the norm. A few years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I conquered! The challenge is to write a novel in 30 days. Ever since I met the challenge, it's become my normal writing routine. I'll take out a calendar and map out where I should be in my word count every day. Once I've met the 30-day challenge, I take a couple weeks to a month off and then go back and edit. Works for me! One great thing is that when I write a book so quickly, everything about it is fresh in my mind.

Anthony St. Clair: I don't worry about muses or inspiration or any of that. If they're along, nifty--but if they're not, I've still got words to get on the page. To that end, I have a daily task of "Write for 60 minutes or 5 pages or 1,000 words or 2 drafts per day," set in the Remember the Milk online task management service. I get up before my wife, clean up, have breakfast, and do my writing. I consider that my minimum. If that's all the writing I do all day, I'm good with it. The more the better, but once I've put in that time, I'm ready for the rest of the day knowing I've done my writing. Maybe inspiration comes to those who gently ask. Maybe inspiration comes to those who do. I don't know. I just know that by making sure I do that writing, every day I have something to show for it, assignments get done, and day by day my first novel is ever closer to ready.

William Bortz: I personally don't think writing has a routine. Good writing comes from the heart. It's the passion you feel. Whether that passion is coming from something that has been with you forever, or that split second when you see something that shakes you, and at that moment the story is already there, all you have to do is release it into this world.

Janet Church: Being a farmer I am used to getting up early but I also find this to be the most productive time of day. I am fresh mentally and can usually recall any interesting dreams from the night before. I find that I do some of my best thinking when I am asleep! I do not check my e-mail or turn on the news as it is too easy to be distracted and lose whatever creative inspirations I may have. If nothing new crops up, I will go back and re-read other work, particularly if I haven't reviewed in a while. Errors, awkward phrasing or meandering sentences seem to jump out and can be revised. I do this daily even if for just a few minutes. On Sundays I devote the entire morning as my "job"--until my three German Shepherds remind me of my real job of taking them for a walk.


Myself? I don't have a specific time of day that I write, but I do write almost every single day. And even when editing work and family life get super hectic, I still write at least one poem a week for the Poetic Asides Wednesday Poetry Prompts.

But yeah, I write every day, whether it's a blog post, newsletter, poem, short story, or whatever. I never get tired of stringing words together.


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Anonymous said...

Great advice, having a writing routine is important. I try to do a little bit each day, although this past month has been pretty hectic and I haven't gotten much writing done :(

evelyn.n.alfred said...

I've gotten away from my writing routine, but I'm hoping to get back on track with 750words.com.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

I haven't heard of 750words.com, Evelyn. I'll have to check it out.

Cate, I can totally relate to life getting too hectic from time to time.

Victor Sunstar said...

At 66 now. When I awake from the dead at about 6am each morn. I mix my peach and black ice tea, check my emails ect and then I have to tear myself away from my online computer over to my writing computer. But once I gets going by reviewing, minor edits I then dive into my characters and I loves it. BTW. I found a special large keyboard with yellow keys and nice contrasty black letters at Cyberguys in Sacramento. Don't even have to use muh readers with it :-)