Apr 10 2019
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7 writing tips for moving from rut to routine

Adapted from a 2015 Tips for Beginning Writers post on the benefits and logistics of establishing a writing routine, if you’ve struggled to do so.

Maybe you aren’t a routine kind of person. Some of us are; some of us aren’t. But I’m guessing that if you’re reading a blog post about writing tips, you’re open to suggestion.

Because there are precious few writers out there who can subsist solely from practicing their craft, most of us tend to fit writing in where we can, between paying jobs, managing households, raising children, and engaging within our communities. Our writing can therefore seem like less of a priority than those other responsibilities. But just like working out at the gym, you have to do it regularly if you want to see results.

If writing is something you really want to do, you need to work hard at developing and maintaining a routine. Here are some tips on practices that have worked for me:

Identify where your “free” time is.

And if you think you don’t have free time, think again. For a period of two weeks, document your daily activities in half-hour increments. Take a look at times when you didn’t have anything scheduled, and honestly assess how you spent that time. Could you fit in a writing “workout” somewhere? Could you move activities or obligations around to create a more optimal time to write?

Categorize that free time.

When you’re relaxing after dinner or setting an early alarm so you can be fully awake before heading off to work—those might not be the best times to try to write. We all need our down time (or our wake-up time). But is TV time taking up every spare minute between the kids’ bedtime and your own? If you’re an early riser, are you awake enough to fit in a quick journaling session before work?

Dig deeper. 

You have a good understanding of your free time, at this point. Now, push yourself that extra mile and think about your moods, energy levels, and motivation. Is there a consistent time of day when you feel more creative than other times? When you have more energy? When you know you absolutely do NOT have energy? One of the most prevalent fitness tips is to figure out when you have energy slumps and feed your body with high-protein, low-sugar snacks at those times. If you find yourself wishing you could spend every morning writing, but you work and can’t do that, try getting up early on weekends to take advantage of the time of day you feel the most creatively energized.

Clear your writing space. 

Dedicate a space to writing by removing clutter and anything not related to your craft. It might sound silly, but besides having access to equipment they might not have at home, this is a main reason why people go to fitness centers to work out. There is a sense of purpose in having a specific place to go to for a specific activity, so much so that you can train your mind/body to “react” to being in that space—as soon as you enter the gym, or sit down at your writing desk, you know why you’re there and what you hope to accomplish. Some people get more writing done at coffee shops or libraries; you can still apply some de-cluttering and clearing tactics (and even ritualizing ones, per the next point) in those spaces!

Ritualize your writing space.

Maybe your desk features your laptop, two of your favorite pens, a plant or beloved knick-knack, and a yummy-smelling candle. Maybe you’ve decorated it with famous-writer quotes, bookmarks, and various other items you think are beautiful and inspiring. Maybe it’s the most blissfully uncluttered space in your entire home. Make your writing space a happy space and you might get more done while you’re there.

Prioritize your writing projects.

Do you want to write a book chapter today, or are you content to edit a few pages? Are you in a mood to free write or start something new, or does an in-progress piece have a deadline looming? You’ve structured time to write, but now that you’re in your space, what would you like to accomplish? Some days, it’s enough to just reread what you wrote the day before, to stay immersed in a specific piece, character, setting, or idea—a walk in the park, so to speak. Other days might require a more rigorous “workout” of drafting or rewriting 10 pages.

Help others hold you accountable.

This final tip also aligns neatly with the metaphor of working out, where “exercise with a friend” is such great advice. Do you know another writer with whom you can regularly converse about both of your work? Make sharing your drafts with her—and reading her drafts, when she sends them to you—part of your writing routine, and by extension, you will make regular reading part of your writing process.

Do you or will you use any of these tips to help you maintain a regular writing practice? Share with us in the comments!

Related reading: How to make the “write” work space for you

How to make more time to write (and why it’s probably not a time problem you have)

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