Tag Archives: habit

Five Steps To Building A Regular Writing Routine

By Bethany Perry

There’s so much advice out there about writing.

A lot of it is obvious. For instance, I read an article yesterday that suggested two things about how to write. One, sit down (optional). Two, write. Yes, two is required.

Thinking about writing is not writing.

Reading advice columns like this one is not writing.

Doing all the things I am about to relate to you is not writing.

Writing is writing, period.

Honestly, however, just because reading about writing is not writing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact, I think (and I’ve read) that continuing your education in writing is essential to growing as an author. So let’s get on with it.

Five Steps for Building A Regular Writing Routine

  1. I keep a writing journal

Yes, I got this suggestion from another article. Yes, it has worked for me. I modified it to meet my specific needs. What I do is, I write down things like what time I sat down to write and what time I finished, my beginning and ending word count, if my football team won or lost, whether or not I’ve had caffeine recently, the days this year when I lost two good friends. Why do this?

It helps me see several things. It helps me keep up with productivity, AKA my word count. It shows me what affects my productivity. Death absolutely does, I knew that. But the time of day does too. I write best at night. That’s just how it is. I’m too easily distractible during the day. I’m a night owl. Makes sense I’d be more able to focus the darker it is outside.

Knowing when and how I’m most productive gives me a better opportunity to be at my most productive. And when I’m on, I’m on. I only get about an hour on an average day to write. When I do it at my most productive time, I can crank about 1k to 1500 words regularly.

But there’s more to that story.

  1. I listen to music with headphones.

After I work all day, spend time with the kiddos and the boyfriend, the munchkins go to bed and I write. But the boyfriend is a night owl too, sometimes the kiddo wants water or whatever, the dogs bark, you know, normal house stuff.

So when it’s time, I put on my headphones and go to my writing place. Instrumental music is best because it’s been proven that your language center cannot decipher two inputs at once. So if I listen to music with lyrics, maybe my brain is working on those words instead of the ones I’m putting down on the page. Even if those aren’t the words I think I’m focusing on, I might not be able to instruct my brain to do otherwise without some effort of will. That affects my productivity. I don’t want that. So for me, it’s instruments only or instruments mostly with some wordless vocalizations. And then I sink into my little world of words.

  1. I have a routine

If you have kids, you’ve probably discovered that routine is wonderful for keeping them happy. They might complain about it, but if things are presented to them in the same way each day – breakfast at 9, lunch at 11 followed by a nap, snack at 2, dinner at 6, bedtime at 8, for example – I’ve found things go so much easier. They know what to expect and when, and they are comfortable within those boundaries.

Funny thing is, I’ve found adults are the same way. I might complain about going to work every morning at 6:30, especially since I’m a night owl, but without that routine, I get a little lost. Routine soothes me. It’s the same for most of us, so I’ve read.

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So when it comes to writing, I have created a routine.

Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind. After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)

Just like a bedtime routine helps to make you tired, a writing routine gets me into the writing frame of mind.

After the kiddos are in bed, I put on my PJ’s. Might as well be comfy. Then, I put on the kettle. While it’s getting to a boil, I check my facebook, email, twitter. Like mad. I make comments, post pictures, do a bunch of stuff. Whatever internet related stuff I want to do, especially that pesky social media. (Research is reserved for research time, and I just do that whenever. Like on a break at work or whatever.)

The water is boiling! Great. I put in the tea and set the timer for steeping. It’s at this point I go to my writing place. I turn on my lamp. I power up my computer. Bust out my journal. Fill in the journal. Beep! Tea is ready.

All these things, in the same order, tell my brain it’s time to write. On to the next step.

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  1. Turn off the internet

This is not a joke. This is not a maybe. This is a must. If you live alone, you can turn it off altogether straight from the router. If not, you can turn it off on your computer.

Place your phone in another room. Or at least out of arm’s reach. Just get rid of the internet. Research is for another time. Checking your facebook is for another time. Reading about writing is for another time. You don’t need the internet to write. Even if you use a cloud based service, you can save offline and upload at the end of your time.

  1. Write

Ah, here we are. Now is the time. I plug in the headphones, start up my music, put the screen in front of me, and write.

So there you have it. I’ve added my voice to the proliferation of voices that tell you how to do this writing thing. But here’s the thing about it. This is what works for me. Take what you like, leave the rest. Find what works for you! That’s the way to truly be successful at getting that writing done. Writing is just as personal as anything else you do, and how you do it is up to you.

But however it is you do it, I hope you have fun doing so.


If you liked this post, you’d also like:

What to be a Better Writer? Think Like A Sculptor! or

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Writing


Bethany grew up in the South, transplanted to the West, and has visited just about anywhere in between. She’s got a day job, and a family, and at night she writes and writes and writes. And sometimes in between, she writes. She enjoys traveling down the road of the macabre, but mainly in order to discover the beauty hiding within the human spirit when it is pushed beyond normal boundaries.She has completed, finally, after all these years, two novels. She is currently working on editing the second for future publication and is neck deep in writing the third. She has published some poems in literary publications and has several works of short fiction published online.

Eight Reasons You Should Write Every Day

 

Did you write today? Are you going to?

In the book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg said, “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impact on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.” I think if you write every day, you can become a happier, more confident writer.

Eight Reasons You Should Write Every Day

 

1. You have mental muscle memory.

If you write every day, your mind is prepared to express itself on a regular basis. You are no longer in that wishy-washy state of, “do I feel like writing today?” With a daily habit you don’t give that ol’ liar writers’ block a foothold. You have a habit of writing, so you sit down and you do it. There’s no mental discussion. There is no woe is me feeling. A habit can be freeing.

2. You resist the inner editor better.

If you are in the habit of writing every day, you become less and less attentive to that little voice that tells you you’re doing it wrong. You may learn with a daily habit that speed is more important than perfection. As a result, you’ll spend less time backspacing and more time building up your word count.

3. You gain words.

If you are a writer that tracks your word count, then a daily writing habit is a must. I know that I can write around 500 words in a 10-minute increment if all is going well. So if my daily goal is around 1500 words, I have an idea of how long that will take me to get.

4. You can de-stress easier.

When something happens to me I can get that icky feeling out of my system faster if I write. Say I have a negative encounter with another driver in the supermarket parking lot, I have a tendency to rehash every word until I can write it all down. The words then are on the page, not in my head, and I can get past the event.

5. You can practice writing.

No one would expect a concert musician to play Carnegie Hall without years of diligent practice. The same can be said about great writers. They, like the musicians, have put in their time daily. Successful writers have stretched, practiced, and reviewed. They grow in confidence. They know the fundamentals and are willing to advance their skills. Writers should do the same. A daily writing habit can make an amateur writer a pro with time.

6. You can practice observations.

With a daily writing habit, a writer can grow in observing the world. Flannery O’Connor said, “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” A good writer focuses on the sensory observations around him, tinkers with them until they are perfect, and learns to put them into his work.

7. You now have a draft, no matter how bad it is.

When I was setting my timer for 10 minutes a day, I kept going because I knew that something was always better than nothing. A blank page can’t be edited. And after you’ve been writing regularly, you grow less and less intimidated by that blank screen. Daily writing habits build courage.

8. You may impress yourself.

It’s easy to second-guess your work, but with time and consistency, you’ll be able to judge better what is good. Sometimes you may even create something excellent. And when that comes, all the practice will be worth it.

I agree with Charles Duhigg. Habits are powerful and my writing habit is one I love.

In my life, my habits become touchstones to my day and week.  I like that I always make the same Tex-Mex meal every Friday night. I also love the habit of going to church with my family every Sunday. And I also love the habit of saying good night to each of my children. I’m not crazy about the habit of picking my cuticles while I watch Netflix. And I wish I had a more regular habit of exercising.

My daily writing habit (or almost daily) has become an indispensable part of my life and I’m glad I have it.

Do you know someone who needs to be encouraged to have daily writing habit? Send this link to them!

 


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.