11 Tips for Creating a Writing Routine (that will leave you feeling free!)
Listen to today's article:
"Oh, you write books? That's a lot of work. How do you find the time?"
*insert eye roll here*
If you are anything like me, you absolutely loathe this question. It's not necessarily annoying. The thing is, you simply don't have the time. With your job, school, kids, sleep, grocery shopping, etc., it can be insanely hard to sneak in a few minutes to say hello to your imaginary friends.
And rightfully so! We are writers, but we also have crazy hectic, normal-people lives to deal with, too.
I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel guilty for not writing all day, every day. After all, writing is my passion. I should want to do it all the time, right? But I also don't want to be chained to my desk 24/7. I miss that yellow orb thing that hangs in the sky!
That is why, through much trial and error, I discovered and made a few simple changes to my writing routine that gave me more freedom, less guilt, and better (ahem...killer) drafts. Want to do the same? Here's how to buckle down and build your feel-free writing routine today!
1) Letting Go For Your Writing Routine
Letting go is hard, but writing is vulnerability and vulnerability is change. It's time to give up your figurative fuzzy, pink blankie (or literal - no judgment here!) and begin building an efficient + productive writing routine. Here are a few things you need to give up to make it happen:
#1: Guilty Pleasures. It stinks to give up the easy things, but they are making you complacent. Every time you decide to watch the latest five seasons of Desperate Housewives over writing your book, you are telling yourself that simply getting by in life is more important than doing amazing things. And that's not cool!
Don't get me wrong, your guilty pleasures aren't evil. You can still spend some time smashing the controller keys or window shopping the Forever 21 website, but treat them as indulgences or, better yet, rewards for consistent writing.
If you find yourself unwittingly sucked away for hours at a time, try setting an alarm so that you know when it's time to quit. Hold yourself accountable. You won't regret it when you have a finished manuscript in your hands.
#2: Guilt. You will screw up. Say it with me now. You will screw up.
Keeping any type of routine is darn hard work, and you are going to mess it up. There will be days when you forget to write, when you get sick or a family issue takes precedence. Whatever. Life happens. Writing should always bring you joy.
While a consistent writing routine is key to actually finishing your book, don't drag yourself to your desk. When you make writing a chore, you tell yourself that you have to do this thing or your day isn't complete and your life is not fulfilled.
Don't beat yourself up! When you mess up, tell yourself you'll get 'em next time and move on.
#3: Excessive Research. Maybe this one's just me, but I will research and daydream about my story for days on end. I never get bored of it! I tell myself that I am creating the best version of my story before I begin to write so that I will have less work to do in the revision period.
But when I do this, I never seem to get around to the actual writing. Last time I checked, authors don't write bestselling books by simply thinking them into existence, right?
Completing pre-writing and doing research before the first draft is always a smart idea, especially for us planners, but there comes a point when you simply must sit down and write. No matter how much you plan your first draft, it will always need revisions.
So get over your excessive research addiction and go be a writer!
2) Getting Organized for Your Writing Routine
If you're a bit of a perfectionist, you are going to love this section of our post. On the other hand, if you tend to be a lazy organizer, I do apologize. All the same, getting organized for your writing routine is the key to feeling free, so roll up your sleeves and let's get to work!
#1: Create a Retreat. Writing is a sacred thing, as silly as that may sound. It's a highly personal and extremely vulnerable act. Good authors write until their souls bleed onto the page because that is what makes writing great. Such a singular act deserves a place of singular purpose.
That's why it's time to create a writing retreat–a specific place to write–that is solely for writerly use. Find this place, then surround yourself with things that make you happy and comfortable, things that relax you, and things that inspire your writing.
For me, this space is in the corner of my bedroom. My desk sits in front of the window, where I can look out at my little country road. I like to light up my lavender aromatherapy candle before writing, and I also have my bookshelf nearby so I am constantly reminded to walk in the path of authors who came before me.
#2: Organize Your Week. If you are like the rest of us, your life is chaos. There are so many responsibilities that clog up your week and leave you feeling drained. Finding time to write somewhere in there might seem bananas, but you must make it happen if you want your dreams to become reality.
How do you tackle such a task? By getting your life in order.
When you look closely at your weekly schedule, you'll notice that some tasks are not as important as they seem. Occasionally, we even create busyness in our lives so that we feel normal. How pointless! It's time to cut the crap and get your priorities straight.
Take a good look at your schedule. What to-do items are truly necessary? Can you pare down or eliminate any others? Try creating a chart to find out how you can make room to write. And if it comes down to it, go ahead and pencil writing time right into your week. Whatever it takes, right?
#3: Go Pro. It is time to treat your writing professionally. That means no more pajamas, no more writing in bed (unless that's your retreat space), and no more watching television while you type.
That may seem harsh, and maybe you just scoffed at me, but if you want to make writing your full-time job then you must treat it like a job now. So get a shower, brush your teeth, and put on some real clothes (I'll even let yoga pants slide–I'm not a monster!).
Treat your writing with the respect it deserves, and it will return the favor.
#4: Keep Your Notes Nearby. Time to scrounge up all those story notes and make them pretty! Get yourself a nice binder with tabbed sections if you keep physical notes, or try out a program like Scrivener, Evernote, or Onenote if you prefer digital.
Whatever your preference, it's time to get your notes neatly organized in one place.
Once you've got them organized, keep them nearby in your writing retreat. You will want to have them handy so you can refer back to them while you write. And don't forget to back them up! Try Dropbox, Google Docs, or a Sentrysafe to keep your notes safe from fire, flood, and digital destruction.
3) Doing Things Differently For Your Writing Routine
If you want to change your writing routine, you can't stay complacent. It's time to switch things up so you can put your best writing forward. Sound like a plan? Here are a few tasks to tackle:
#1: Change Your Viewpoint. The word "can't" is so limiting. I can't eat sugar. I can't go shopping. I can't go to that party. It leaves us craving what we can't have and feeling guilty when we mess up. Instead of saying that you can't do something because you must write, try thinking that you don't do those things because you are a writer.
I don't watch television during the day because that is my designated blogging and writing time. But do you want to know a secret? I love television. Give me a good story in any format and I'm sold. For awhile, watching television was eating away at my valuable productivity time. I had to make a choice.
Telling myself that I don't watch television during the day rather than that I can't watch television helped alleviate my desire to reach for the remote control.
#2: Grab a Snack. This tip might seem superfluous, but I promise it's not. I'm talking science here, okay?
Eating small, healthy snacks throughout the day is actually great for boosting your brain power and keeping you focused, which is awesome for me since I always seem to be grazing on something.
Keep something small on your desk, such as fruit or trail mix, in case you get the urge to eat. Make sure not to choose anything too messy! Also, try to keep water or tea on hand. Having something to quench your thirst as you write really does help keep you alert and focused.
If you aren't a fan of snacking, you can always try chewing a piece of gum to trick your brain into thinking you're eating. It may not keep your levels stable, but it will provide a little extra blood flow to your brain to keep you on top of your game.
#3: Work in Batches. Binge-writing is nowhere near as fun as binge-reading or binge-watching. And it's not the best way to produce quality work, either.
Instead, try working for fifteen or thirty minute intervals at a time, writing as much as you can in those precious minutes. You can always set an alarm if you find it hard to keep the time.
Once you've finished an interval, take a five- or ten-minute breather. Stretch, check social media, make yourself a cuppa joe. When your break is up, don't reread your work. Set another timer and pick up where you left off.
Complete as many batches as you can. You may be surprised to find how many words you've written at the end of the day (and just how good those words are!). Try to batch-write at least three or four days a week so you can keep improving upon what you've already learned in your writing.
Let me drive the cliché further into the ground by saying practice makes perfect. It's true, so hop to it!
#4: Create a Routine. Like I said above, binge-writing is not your friend. It's simply not good time management. You need consistency in your life to improve upon your skills as a writer, and just ten minutes a day will always be better than one hour crunched in at the end of the week.
(Psst...if you think writing every day is an impossible habit to keep, go check out Faye Kirwin's Writember Workshop. It will honestly change your life!)
You may need to play around with your schedule before you find what works best for you, a that's okay. Writing an entire book is a big dream. It may even seem insurmountable, but I promise you it's not. The best way to achieve big dreams in life is to work towards them step by step. So dream big, and work small.
Create a minimalist routine that allows you to chip away at your dream little by little every week. Then, at the end of each week, look back over what you've done. Incredible, right? Those ten minute sessions equaled a chapter, two chapters, maybe even more. It's progress and that should always make you proud!
In a previous edition of this post, I mentioned that I was preaching to myself in many ways. My own writing routine was faltering and I needed to get back on track. Today, I am proud to say that I've written at least 200 words every day since taking the Write Chain Challenge in March 2015.
Even on my busiest days, taking ten minutes to write my daily words has kept my novel progress running full-steam ahead, and it's all thanks to building a writing routine that worked for me.
A daily writing routine might not be the best choice for every writer, but it's certainly worth trying out. It might just change your life!