If you fall into the latter group, don’t worry. There is no judgment here. But I would like to help you find a way to move past saying, “I want to write,” and be able to say, “I am writing [insert project here].”
The number one way to do that is to form a specific, daily writing routine.
Most great writers have a routine they follow. The magic doesn’t just happen sporadically.
Take Stephen King, for example.
“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.”
Or Kurt Vonnegut’s predictable daily routine, which he described in detail in a 1965 letter to his wife, Jane.
“I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare.”
Or Hemingway, who famously wrote while standing.
“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.”
My writing routine varies slightly depending on my workload, but it is more or less consistent each day. I am more productive in the morning, so I like to get most of my writing done before 1:00, then eat lunch, and then jump into other projects like consulting or business development.
Each morning, I have a cup of coffee or tea, but it tends to quickly cool without drinking much of it—there’s just something about having it there, the presence of it, that puts me in the mood. My music choice varies by day. When editing, I always opt for silence. I shut my office door to separate myself from the bustle outside. There are times when I struggle to produce, but those times are relatively few and far between—especially compared to when I didn’t have a routine in place.
So, how do you start a writing routine? Here are a few questions to get you started, from my book, The Editor’s Eye: A Practical Guide to Transforming Your Book from Good to Great.
- When am I most productive: morning, afternoon, or evening?
- Where do I work best (home, coffee shop, etc.)?
- What kind of environment do I work best in (loud, quiet but with music, silent, etc.)?
- What things distract me (housework, kids, Internet browsing, etc.)?
- Do I work well on my own, or am I motivated working in the same space as others?
Here’s what I’ve found most useful: Set time each day to write. You can take weekends off, if you want to. I usually do. But have a regular routine and stick with it. Commit to your routine for 30 days, and it will likely become an indispensable part of your life—something you need as much as food, sleep, and movement.
What does your writing routine involve? What tips can you share? Where do you struggle in sticking with your routine?