How do you make and master a writing routine?
Some zoologists believe that cats sleep so much because they expend so much energy in their short bursts of activity that they exhaust themselves. Or, they are so efficient in their brief time awake, they can afford to sleep.
Although not always efficient, I liken my writing process to a cat’s daily routine: furious energy bursts, often in the middle of the night, followed by sudden dormancy. My writing routine consists predominantly of naps.
I’m not a believer in the “write every day movement.” I’m not a believer in writing processes as movements in general.
Writing is about having a unique voice—one that cannot be cultivated by following everyone else’s writing routine.
Stephen King, for example, writes every day. He has time set aside every morning. But Stephen King made almost half-a-million dollars from his first book. If you work a full-time job outside of your writing (or even a part-time job), you may not be able to carve that kind of time out of your day—but you probably don’t need to. In fact, I’d advise against it.
Writing every day can get tiring, and practice only yields success if it’s done correctly. Playing piano every day won’t land you a solo with the New York Philharmonic if your fingering is off. It can actually be detrimental—habits are hard to break.
I, on the other hand, write in sporadic bursts, but I’m convinced that the latent stretches between my productive phases are where I draw my energy. It’s like a permanent cycle of procrastination: if I wait long enough, I have to write.
How do you find your writing routine?
Observe yourself. Determine how often you write without prompting. Look at the body of work you’ve produced so far. You’ll get a sense of how you already work and what you want to accomplish. You only need to develop a routine that will help you reach whatever goals you set.
Figure out how you are already writing and where you are trying to go. If you write five pages once a week, that might be enough. If you’re working toward a 500-page novel, you may need to adjust.
Find the time of day that works best. I’ll never be a morning person. Will you?
Exercise. Really. Get adrenaline going. Be healthy. It helps motivate you to write—and to do just about anything else.
Enlist friends. Make a firm writing group commitment so you’ll be embarrassed if you show up with nothing. At the very least, they’ll be there to put off writing by sending each other cute animal pictures.