22 Apr Create A Writing Routine Part III: Importance of a Daily Habit
It is extremely complicated to create a writing routine, especially these days. Not only do we have day jobs, families, bills, and responsibilities of all kinds, we also have more technology than ever before, tempting us with an infinite amount of information, and useless distractions, at our fingertips. To be a successful writer now means to push back against everything that comes first in our lives and to fight every day for the time and space to put words on a page. And even though it is a fight, it doesn’t have to feel like one. With some planning, a shift in how we view our day to day lives and routines, and some positive self-reinforcement, we can all be successful writers, whatever that means to each of us individually.
I’ve had a lot of lifestyle changes recently. I’m married now, I have animals to take care of, a house to look after, and more bills than I’ve had before, plus, I’m constantly on the pursuit of different ways to make money. I’m also living in a new town without the comforts and resources I’ve had previously. Luckily, I’m pretty good at finding places to work wherever I am in the world, but the struggle of staying in one location longer than normal, plus stress of the other changes in my life put writing to the back of my mind. While I’ve always been interested in productivity, especially in a freelance work setting, it’s never been more important for me to stay on track and continuously progress both in my short-term money making opportunities, and my long term writing goals.
After reading books by Carolyn See, Áine Greany, Anne Lamott, Ron Carlson, and Natalie Goldberg, I’ve compiled a list of tips and advice that has really changed the way that I work and view the work that I’m doing. I’ve focused on five topics and have created a post for each of them.
Table of Contents
- Preparing you inner self for writing and being more productive.
- Ways to getting (re)started in a writing life, maybe again.
- The importance of having a daily and weekly writing habit.
- What to do about talking to others about our work.
- How to not let life get in the way.
The Importance of Having a Daily And Weekly Writing Habit
You can probably see the benefits of daily writing. Soon all of that writing will add up to something much bigger. You’ll either have a novel, or a few, or many stories, essays, poems, or plays. Those one thousand words will eventually create something physical that you can take pride in. But another benefit of daily writing is that over time, the writing won’t seem as much of a task anymore.
For the first few weeks it’ll feel like you’re slogging through, each time you need to pull yourself away from relaxing on the couch watching a movie, to sit in a room and create will be agony. You’ll want to give up. You’ll want to get more sleep, actually take a break during your lunchtime, or just have more free time. But if you stick with it, most usually say three weeks, it will become a habit and you’ll think less about how annoying it is.
If you think of writing like working out, you’ll see that working out, or writing, once in a while won’t keep you in shape. Each hiatus will reverse any good effects working out has begun to have on your body. That mile run or 20 push ups won’t get any easier if you’re only doing them every few weeks. If you do them daily, you’ll eventually build the muscle and the stamina necessary to keep from becoming exhausted.
Writing daily will also be quicker and more efficient than just writing on weekends or every few days. When we have huge gaps between sessions we start to forget what we wrote. We have to reread our work, get back into the mindset of our character or the tone of the story. This can take a lot of time and be frustrating. Writing every day can help avoid this because the work will be fresher in your mind, and you won’t need as much time to start actually writing.
And like the saying, an object in motion will stay in motion, a writer that’s writing will stay writing. Just push through the initial few weeks, create the writing habit, and it’ll become second nature.
Getting Past a Block
If you’re just getting started on a writing routine, or restarting one after a break or creative block, it can feel impossible to do something as simple as pushing buttons on a keyboard. But, there are a few things that you can do get back on track and make it a habit again.
Small Habits to get into Writing
Natalie Goldberg is a trained Buddhist and speaks a lot to the power of meditation and the power of the mind. She suggests small tasks to take our mind from our day to day thoughts to our writing thoughts. These tasks can be done anytime we need to stop feeling scatterbrained and need to focus. I especially like to do it when there’s a difficult scene or section I need to write, and I can’t seem to focus.
- You can fill a glass with water and drink it all. She says to concentrate on drinking. Feel the water entering your mouth and moving down your throat. Think about your swallowing. Look through the bottom of the glass, watch the water lessen. Keep breathing and swallowing, concentrating until the water is gone. Now sit down to write. You’re mind should be less cluttered and you should feel more focused for the task at hand.
- Take a walk around the block. Don’t take any music with you. Just walk, concentrating on your footsteps, the houses around you, the grass, the sounds. Smell the air. Only think about sensory details. Once you get back home start writing.
If you’re problem isn’t resolved, or you are having a problem coming up with any ideas at all, writing exercises are a must. Craft books are filled with exercises to do that will spark your writing. Áine Greany gives a few examples.
- You can write about what’s out your window, describing everything in detail.
- Take a bite of something in your fridge and describe the tastes.
- Look through the newspaper headlines and continue the story on your own.
- Create a shopping list of what you’d buy with lottery money you’ve won.
Natalie Goldberg likes to create lists. She writes phrases like “I remember,” “I see,” “I feel,” and “I want.” She then goes to write the opposites, “I don’t remember,” “I don’t see,” and on. Somewhere in the midst of writing she gets carried away and starts writing a full story or scene instead of listing.
One more tip that I think we’re all familiar with is writing about writing. If we are having a problem with a scene in our novel, or we can’t quite narrow down our conflict, we can write about our problems. Somewhere in the middle of writing the problem, the solution will pop up. Just taking the thoughts from inside our head, putting them down on paper, makes us think of them in a different way. We can more clearly grasp the problem and create an answer. The most important thing is to put words on a page. Somewhere in the act of writing we will get a spark of creativity that will turn into something until we’re just writing away with ease.
What have you found that gets you into the writing “mood?” Let me know. I’m always looking for tips