21 May How to make writing a regular routine
When I teach writing, I always ask my workshop students how they create a routine for themselves. Here’s what some say:
- I write for 40 minutes during my lunch break twice a week.
- I write on the train to work.
- I stay in and write one evening every week.
- I take myself off to a café on the weekend and write for two hours.
- I get up early and write an hour before breakfast.
Writing, like any craft, improves if you practise. If you want to get fit, you go to the gym and diarise your training days. That’s what you need to do with writing. Make a commitment to yourself to show up at your desk (even if your desk is your bed) and write.
Set yourself realistic goals. If you’re a time person, aim for an hour’s session. If you’re a word person, set yourself a daily or weekly word goal. Professional writers are often happy with 1,000 words per day. Prolific writers will do up to 3,000 words.
There’s a myth that writing can only happen when the mood takes you. Or when you have a morning free. Or when your planets are aligned.
Writing can happen anywhere, anytime. Get into the routine of writing in short bursts. Start with 15 minutes. That can be enough to write a paragraph, or half a scene or a quick mindmap on the travel article you are working on.
Techniques to keep you writing
- A writing buddy: someone whose opinion you trust who can give you constructive feedback. Most of all, someone who will tell you to keep writing when you want to give up.
- Break down your writing into manageable tasks. One day, focus on dialogue. Another day, your descriptive passages.
- If you can’t think of anything to write, try mental flossing. This is where you splurge all your thoughts about what is stopping you write … ‘I feel tired because the neighbour’s dog woke me. I’d much prefer to be on the beach.’ Start the juices flowing to allow deeper memories to surface. You’ll be surprised what comes out.
- Finish before the end of the scene you are working on. Then when you sit down again, you don’t start with a blank page.
- Read someone else’s writing who inspires you.
- Read someone else who you think is terrible and know that you can do better. Sit back down at your desk.
- Trick yourself. Say you will only write for 20 minutes. That’s it. Once you start, you often find you want to keep going.
Some writers go for the carrot option. When they’ve completed their task they treat themselves. Others prefer the stick – no walk for them if they haven’t made their word total.
Which approach works for you?