A Writer’s Life: Routines

Writing is hard.

And not just because I’m typing this with one hand because I’m cuddling a child in the other. I’m actually remarkably good at typing with one hand. I’m versatile like that.

No, writing is hard for a whole different set of reasons. Time constraints, previous commitments, and life tend to get in the way of creativity and our stories, and when—magically—everything lines up for us to sit down for an hour or two to smash out a thousand words, we suddenly hit a block.

Who else hates that blinking cursor?

I do. When I’m stuck, I feel like it’s mocking me.

I resent that.

My solution?

Routines

Writing is hard. It’s harder when you’re not ‘inspired’. But, writer, no one is inspired every time they sit down to write. If you wait for inspiration, you will get three chapters in six months, and a book that will never be finished.

Writing is a discipline, and you won’t always feel like it.

Working through that reluctance and learning to write anyway is what distinguishes the authors from the hobby writers. If you can write when you don’t want to, you will finish more manuscripts than most people will finish chapters.

And believe me, that’s a good feeling.

The trouble is, how do you get your creativity flowing on a day that feels drier than dust? Because writing isn’t like crunching numbers, stocking shelves, or painting a wall. Sometimes, you’re staring at the blinking cursor, determined to write, and you just . . . can’t.

How To Make It Happen

Here’s the thing.

Your brain is incredibly complex. It’s brilliant and limitless and incredibly, incredibly powerful. Day or night, there is no time when you can’t access the skills you’ve built or the stories you’ve planned.

Writer, it’s your mind you have to convince. (And yes, your mind and your brain are two different things.)

And, if you can’t convince your mind that you are totally capable of writing at any given time, in any given place, then it might just be time to resort to a little trickery.

Yep. I trick my mind. All the time. I’ve learned to snap myself from a slump into high gear and to write like the wind on the days when I am completely stuck.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one moment of intentional discomfort.

Truth #1

Writing is magic—and it’s not.

The magic is in you, writer. In your head, in the stories, in the effort you put into your work. There’s no mystical time of day that you have to ‘catch your muse’, no sacrifices to burn, no secret formula.

There is only you. What works for you, what tricks your mind into putting words on the page. What brings joy into the process for you.

Truth #2

There is no wrong way to get yourself moving.

Need a twenty-minute power nap before you start? A half hour of reading? A cup of coffee? Maybe you like to run to get your mind moving or have a favorite snack that triggers your writing mood. Or maybe you like to listen to the same song on repeat for an entire session—or have your space completely silent.

The only wrong routine is the one that doesn’t work for you.

Three Tricks

  1. Have a routine. A thing—or series of things—that you do before and while you’re writing that tells your mind it’s time to focus and get things done. A song, a cup of tea, rereading what you wrote the last session. Something that you do every time you write to trigger your writing muscle and get you going.
  2. Tailor it to you. Writer, you are unique. Looking up writing routines on Pinterest and choosing the best one is great—as long as you tailor it to fit. Your mind is not like anyone else’s. What will get it in gear is completely unique. So take some time to find what works best for you . . . and give it a while to start working. Habits aren’t made in a day.
  3. Know your limits. I try to write six days a week, every week. It keeps me in the zone, keeps me productive, and gets things done. For me, it works. One of my writer chums lasts about three weeks in that routine before she hits burnout and crashes—a totally unhealthy thing to have happen. What works for someone else may not work for you. Find your own routine, your own limits and what keeps you productive, joyful, and healthy, and run with that.

One Moment of Intentional Discomfort

I did not want to write this morning.

I’m going to be honest about that. It happens to me a lot. I would rather read, or listen to an audiobook and do Sudoku puzzles. Or clean my house. Or play chess with the kids. Just about anything really, because writing is hard, it taxes my brain, and as much as I love it, sometimes it’s just—work.

And yet, I set aside the things I would rather be doing, dumped my excuses in the trash, and went to it. Because even the best things in life are uncomfortable at one time or another. They force us to stretch and grow and keep us honest.

But I’ll you something. After that moment of intentional discomfort—that uncomfortable realization that I was going to do this whether I liked it or not—the words started to flow, and I started to enjoy myself.

Sometimes, a moment of intentional discomfort is all it takes.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What kind of routines do you have for your writing? I’d love to hear about them, or answer any questions you might have about developing a routine. And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing details, and the impact they have on a writer’s work.

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