Getting Words on the Page: Writing Routines

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Like most things in life, there’s no “one size fits all” solution here. Every writer works differently and has different strengths and weaknesses, as well as a different set of personal circumstances.

  •  Journal every day, first thing, (or block out a time that works for you.)

    • Find a pretty journal or notebook that will make you look forward to it
    • Same for a pen/ pencil/ crayon/ marker
    • Leave it in a place (next to your bed, at your desk that will remind you to do it.) Don’t leave it in various places and lose it like your (*my*) keys, phone, bag…

If you’re not sure if you are a morning person or a night owl, try a few days of writing in the morning, a few days of writing at night and so on; record your output and motivation levels; and then determine which one is working best for you.

Julia Cameron discusses the idea of Morning Pages (Stream of Consciousness):

…”three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. [Morning pages] are not high art. They are not even ‘writing’. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only.”

  • Observe what works for you

Writing requires you to forge a working relationship with yourself. Many of us aren’t taught any tools to do that, and it’s sort of an indirect task, anyway. Thus, stream of consciousness journaling, first thing. Or last thing of the day, if you have really rushed mornings.

If you’re still worried about finding the time to establish a writing routine, remember this: there’s a difference between making time for your writing, and finding time for it.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it:

Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’”

  • Set a dedicated space to work/write.

    Set a routine/ ritual to do them every day. Having that ritual will make it easier for you to get down to business.

Check out what Stephen King has to say:

There are certain things I do if I sit down to write. I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places.

The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon. It’s not any different than a bedtime routine. Do you go to bed a different way every night?”

When Haruki Murakami is working on a novel, for example, he sticks to a strict, unvarying writing routine:

I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerise myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

  • Another key is to get comfortable with iterations.

    Make yourself write a “bad” piece and finish it. Let it be full of adverbs, excessive sentence structures – let it flow nonlinearly in ways that make no sense. Then take a break. Then come back to it. Most of good writing comes from editing.
  • Make Writing Time Sacred

    Writing time is for writing and writing only. Being lax with it will hold back your progress. This means WRITE. Don’t do laundry, answer emails, or look at social media. Also, research and planning need to be done out of this window of time. Write Longhand, or fingers to keyboard. It doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s what editing is for – see Iterations above.
  • Set Small Goals

    Word count goals by day, or week. Think about NaNoWriMo, which sets goals for you to write in the Month of November. Write your word count down on a spreadsheet, calendar or list, daily. Seeing what you’ve accomplished in small bursts will make you want to push forward. Reward yourself at the end of the week if you make your goal. And if you don’t, DO NOT beat yourself up. Pick yourself up and know that Tomorrow is another day.

Scott Belsky (founder of Behance) states:

” It’s time to stop blaming our surroundings and start taking responsibility. While no workplace is perfect, it turns out that our gravest challenges are a lot more primal and personal. Our individual practices ultimately determine what we do and how well we do it. Specifically, it’s our routine (or lack thereof), our capacity to work proactively rather than reactively, and our ability to systematically optimize our work habits over time that determine our ability to make ideas happen.

Continue the Conversation:

Check out The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers https://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers

Join a website like 750 words. 750 words = 3 pages. https://750words.com/  

Another option : The Pomodoro Technique (yes, the tomato!) – short bursts followed by breaks. (25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break) https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

The Daily Routine of 20 Famous Writers: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-daily-routine-of-20-famous-writers-and-how-you-can-use-them-to-succeed-1603f52fbb77

The Psychology of Writing and the Cognitive Science of the Perfect Daily Writing Routine: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/08/25/the-psychology-of-writing-daily-routine/

Famous Writers Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/12/16/writers-wakeup-times-literary-productivity-visualization/

Book: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1477800670/braipick-20

Finally… I know it’s odd to say, but JUST WRITE.

As always, we’d love to hear what your daily routine currently looks like – let us know in the comments!

Featured image: Ernest Hemingway credit to Wikipedia Commons

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