One of the things I’ve struggled with the most in regard to my writing, other than self-doubt/fear issues, is building my writing habit. Making and sticking to a routine, a schedule. Part of the reason is that I’ve flip-flopped around between being a day writer and being a night writer, trying to do one or the other, and finally I realized, thanks to the Artist’s Way and a lot of trial and error, that I’m a bit of both.
Here are a few tips to help build a writing routine, and I’ll talk a bit about what has and hasn’t worked for me, and why, along with what I plan on doing in the future.
- LOCATION/Time: Find a place that you can make yours. Whether it’s in a corner of a room, a room of your own, the back porch, the car (no joke, I read about a woman who writes in her car), or where ever. Make it a dedicated space. A place that you feel comfortable writing in, and then place a few things, or bring them with you, that inspire you. Maybe it’s your favorite pen and notebook. Or maybe it’s your favorite hat, sweater, candle, chair, blanket, picture…. Then pick certain times, and yes, I said times, plural. We’ll get to that in a bit.
- Start small. Make Goals. Big one’s like yearly goals, then break that down into quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, daily goals. With your goals made, you can make a plan. Figure how much you need to write based on those goals. For example, write make my 40K word goal for CampNaNoWriMo I need to write 1333 words each day for the month of April. If I make that goal, I’ll have a little over 100K for my novel…THE END (well, it’ll be the end of the book but not the end of my writing because there will still need to be major editing, revising, rewriting… All that good editing stuff). If I miss a day, not a good thing, or if I only write say 500 words on a day then I know I need to make up for that. What I’ve done by breaking my goals up into smaller goals is make them into tasks that are manageable.
- Create a Writing Plan: My writing tasks, thanks to breaking my goals down into manageable tasks, is to write 1333 words during the month of April, or maybe it’s to write 500 words a day the entire year, or maybe it’s to write 1000 words a day during the week. I’ve also set up some kind of schedule (LOCATION/TIME) for my writing. If the house is only quiet from 4am-6am or 4pm-6pm; or if the ideal writing time is before work, or right after work. You know what your life is like, when the peak times are for you to write. If you’re not sure try different things until you find a time that will work for you.
- Write in increments. For example, I write my morning pages, then I take a break from writing and draw. Then I go back to writing and write for 30 minutes to an hour. Then I take a short break, usually 15 minutes and start a load of laundry, make myself a fresh cup of coffee and grab a banana (one of my favorite snacks). That that has done for me is get my out of the chair and moving around. I’ve gotten a healthy snack, done something on my to-do list that I need to accomplish that has nothing to do with writing, as well as clear my head a bit. Then I go back to writing , or I’ll do something that is “writing related,” like look up character names, or find a picture of a setting I like, or research a fact, or write down notes for a video or blog post, then I go back to writing and write for another 30 minutes to an hour. Then it’s time for another break. Time to put those clothes in the dryer, wash some dishes, check the mail, or go for a walk. Then…I go back to writing or doing something “writer related.” I take a long break in the afternoon, usually, and film a video, edit a video, upload; and/or cook dinner, clean the house (I love doing 30 minute daily cleans); eat dinner with Mr. Rockstar, watch a little TV. Then I go back to writing and usually write for 30 minutes to an hour before I go to bed.
- Distractions: Get rid of them, minimize them. Put your phone on vibrate, or better yet silent. Or leave it in a different room. Or you can use a program like Write or Die. Turn your WiFi off. If you’re like me, you’ll put your Scrivener Project in the compose mode, open up Rainymoods.com, light a candle, grab a cup of coffee and write.
- Triggers: Speaking of lighting a candle, grabbing a cup of coffee, opening Rainy Moods…those are triggers for me that it’s time to write. I also prefer to write at my desktop, but there are times when I get tired of sitting at the desk and I use my laptop, with my comfy lapdesk thingy, and I lounge on my bed and write. I also go outside and write at the picnic table in our backyard (if the weather permits), or I’ll go to Starbucks or a park. I also wear my NaNoWriMo or CampNaNoWriMo t-shirts when I’m having a particularly rough day and I need to feel more motivated.
- Word Count Trackers or Logs: Or productivity logs/trackers. If you really want to know how productive you are, keep a log of when you start writing, when you finish, make sure that if you do something else you log the time and activity. Did you pause in your writing to check Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Did you stop writing and watch YT videos? (I speak from experience, lol!)
- (Last but not least) Get your ASS IN the CHAIR! If you don’t sit down (or stand if you’re lucky enough to have one of those standing desks) and write you won’t get the words written. Write. Write! WRITE!
- Self: Improvement, care, etc. If you want to be a better writer, then write, but you might also want to check out what successful writers have done or are doing. Read books about the craft of writing, memiors about writers, blog posts from successful writers. And, you’ll want to take care of your self. Along with taking breaks, you’ll need to get some exercise, sleep, nourishment (perferrably healthy foods/snacks), and hydrate.
- AND REMEMBER: what works for one person/writer might not work for you. FIND out what WORKS for YOU.
And, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard lately is: When you’re done, once you’re spent, and you know it’s best if you stop, then stop. TAKE A BREAK!