Writers Write: Getting into a Routine

Sticking to a writing routine can be scary...the commitment!  Do it anyway, you won't regret it.

Sticking to a writing routine can be scary…the commitment! Do it anyway, you won’t regret it.

There are two kinds of people – writers and thinkers.

It’s not that one of these types is better than the other; the writer is just more disciplined.

They write, every day, and stick to a routine.

Getting into a Routine

A lot of famous writers have shared their writing routines over time to assist fellow writers with the difficult process of designing a writing routine. A discipline much easier said than done.

The bottom line? There is no one, universal writing routine. It’s just not possible. People think differently and have different motivations and pet peeves. If you try to mimic another writer’s routine verbatim, I guarantee you’ll fail. You must find your own…a routine that works for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t design your routine accordingly.

Following the Four “Rs.”

I’m not going to tell you it’s easy to be a disciplined writer. It’s not. Some days you have to force yourself to get inspired (if you’re author Peter DeVries, you might say you force yourself to “get inspired every day at 9 A.M.”). Easy? No. Possible? Writing is a profession, is it not?

But how to you make yourself write every day? Kids take up a lot of time. You barely have time to keep the house clean. Debut writers don’t usually make enough money to support themselves without another job. There’s just too much to do to write every day!   You think.

Poor excuse.

No, I’m not here to lecture you on what you should and should not do; I’m not an agent, or an editor, or J.K. Rowling – and I’m not going to pretend like I’m a bestseller who knows the answer to everything (because I’m not yet, and nobody does). What I can offer is my strategy for getting over distractions – my routine guided by the four “Rs,” organizing essential categories by subcategories.

  • Release
  • Read/Research
  • Write (with an “R”)
  • Resiliency/Remove Distractions

 

You might like some, hate others, or throw all of them all out. At least you will have taken the first step – look for advice on how to make a routine that fits your lifestyle!

R #1: RELEASE

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Exercise the Body, Exercise the Mind

You don’t have to be an exercise junkie like me to get your creative mind churning, but exercise does help relieve stress and other distractions keeping you from your notebook (fun fact, 95% of all stress is emotional; exercise acts as an antidepressant, keeping your mind motivated…people need to move – but not during writing hours!).

For me, I like to kill two birds with one stone – reading and researching on my phone, kindle, or hardcover book while exercising (more on that later). But not everyone likes the elliptical or bike like I do or you might struggle to read while bobbing up and down; yet, you can find other ways to search for inspiration while exercising (like listening to music!).

I don’t think there is a max time everyone should exercise before writing, but I do recommend a good, carefree 30 minutes of cardio (from running to yoga) or weightlifting before you hit the laptop. I know, it can be hard to get to gym, especially after working an eight-hour day – try! Not only is exercising a good way to build your mental strength, physically (pushing through physical pain), but it grounds good habits (if you think you can get through writer’s block, you will!). Try it for 30 days (time needed to become disciplined) and see if you are less distracted and antsy when sitting down to write.

R #2: READ/RESEARCH

Do Your Homework

Don't know much about the publishing business?  Go research it!  I find Twitter and Writers Digest great resources to start.

Don’t know much about the publishing business? Go research it! I find Twitter and Writers Digest great resources to start.

I know…you thought you were done with this post school. Don’t fret; you are – but don’t forsake the search engine! Now that you’ve completed required work, it’s time to research material you actually like. You’ll find lots of writers (like me & other bloggers!) excited to share nugget-filled articles or writing tips, arming you with knowledge needed to understand the publishing business (agents, editors, writer conferences) or kick bad writing funks.

Best place to start? Twitter and Google – both lead you to great hashtags and communicative connections, building your networking to a level you never dreamed!

Read Your Genre

If don't read your genre, you won't know where to place your book in the bookstore...and neither will your agent/editor.

If don’t read your genre, you won’t know where to place your book in the bookstore…and neither will your agent/editor.

“Be well read in your genre and know the market” – Jessica Alvarez of Bookends, LLC.

There is a BIG different between the style of writing expected in a genre and age group (MG is very different from YA, which is far from Adult). Why is reading your genre so important? Two reasons.

1) You want to write in the same voice as comparable authors. They’ve succeeded in capturing the audience you want.

2) You should provide comparable (CURRENT) titles/authors in your query letter. If you don’t read your genre, your titles might be outdated. Comparable titles/authors help the agents decide where to place your book in the bookstore. If you don’t know, they won’t know…and won’t inquire you for more pages.

R #3: Write (“R”)

Hemmingway, if he could do it...so can you.

Hemmingway, if he could do it…so can you.

2 Hours a Day

Why two hours a day? I couldn’t tell you for a fact it’s proven to be the best amount spent writing (though Writer’s Digest suggest it, and I trust 99% of what they suggest). I can tell you from personal experience, however, that unless I put aside two hours a day for writing, I start to get lazy the next time I do try to write. The main flaw of skipping writing each day? I noticed mine in revision 1 v. revision 3 of my book. In my first revision, I took notes in the week and read, but only wrote on Sundays. The result when I read the book in its entirety? Let’s just say at one point I realized I had cut off someone’s hand…only to have it magically grow back again two chapters later. I think you get my point.

Put the two hours in the day, minimum – somewhere, somehow. Once you find a time and make it routine, you’ll dread the days you miss it. I promise (writing is part of who we are!).

Keep a Notebook

God, I love my journals!  How would I take notes without you?

God, I love my journals! How would I take notes without you?

Or multiple notebooks! You might want to assign certain notebooks for certain responsibilities. For instance, I recently completed a stand-alone book, with series potential. In one of my notebooks (a plain leather-brown like Hemingway), I record spontaneous, standout observations I have in the world surrounding me (setting, dialogue, personalities, tastes, etc.). In another notebook (my baby, colorful and quoted with a verse about the fruit of the spirit), I record future plot points for books later in my series. I also jot down character descriptions (names, appearances, relationships) and other sub-world creations. This notebook is the heart of my series, getting fatter every day. Last, I have my elephant notebook (I love elephants – my good luck charm!) for random thoughts and facts. You might use your phone, or you might carry a notebook, but if you’re a writer…CARRY SOMETHING. You will make the common writer’s mistake of oh, I’ll write it down later. Guess what happens later.

Pick a Time

Early to rise/early to bed doesn’t exist for a writer. However, some writers will tell you they prefer to wake up early or stay up late to write. Why? Fewer distractions at these times. Whether this commonality is true or not for you, a designated time WILL help you become more disciplined to your practice. It doesn’t matter what time of day you choose, but allot a couple of hours somewhere in the day, AND BE CONSISTENT.

You might have a day you write more than the assigned time on regular days (I leave Sunday for a full-writing day, and work a minimum of two hours on other days – striving for more), or you might not. Again, you can read lots of suggestions from other writers, but ultimately you need a time that works for YOU (or you’ll find an excuse to skip it).

R #4: Resiliency/Remove Distractions

Push through the brain-block times.  If you don't write, you'll never succeed.

Push through the brain-block times. If you don’t write, you’ll never succeed.

Turn off Social Media

If your stomach just tied in knots, you know this one applies to you! With such easy access to the Internet and other social media, it’s hard to turn off our portable devices and tune out to anything but writing. PUT THE CELL PHONE DOWN! I promise, you’ll thank me for it. It might take a while to get in your writing groove, but you will never get there if you keep answering the ding-ding going off in the phone next to you or checking Facebook. Spending time on the Internet is necessary for every writer (yes, we DO need to promote ourselves!), but only when it is appropriate. Writing time is not an appropriate time. Your characters don’t want to talk to Mom when she’s on the phone or watching TV – they want her full, undivided attention! (Let the magic happen.)

Create Your Inspiration (It’s all about Ambience)

Say it with me...THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WRITER'S BLOCK!

Say it with me…THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WRITER’S BLOCK!

There is no such thing as writer’s block (boom! explosions!). Sorry, friends, there just isn’t. Excuses? Sure. Days you don’t feel like writing? Yup. Frustrated? Often. Stuck? More than often. Solution?

You MUST force yourself to let go of whatever is holding you up, and a good way to start this (other than reading and research because you’ve already checked this step off the list for today) is setting up the ambience in your room. Some authors like the chaos of a living room, finding natural background noise to be helpful (or conducive to writing or some other way to finish this sentence). Others prefer absolute silence (hence, those early birds or night owls). You might be an outside writer or inside writer or a writer that needs a beverage within reach. Maybe you make a playlist for writing, played ONLY when writing (acting like a bell signaling food to an animal – crazy to think about, but it works!). Bottom line is you need to know YOURSELF and the atmosphere you work best in.

Find the place and ambience best for your writing, and write there consistently. It’s not OCD (OK, maybe a little); it’s helping settle your mind. If you’re comfortable, you let down your guard. You stop worrying and start imagining.

You stop writer’s block by writing.

And besides the four “Rs”…Don’t Give Up!

I couldn't help myself...this picture is a story of its own.  Now go write yours!

I couldn’t help myself…too cute! This picture is a story of its own. Now go write yours!

The best advice I can give you about writing is this: take it seriously. If you want to write, you can – but you must be patient, disciplined, thick-skinned, and consistent. Accept the truth. You will need to write and re-write (and re-write…etc.). You do need to make a website. You should try to use social media and strive to attend writer’s conferences (try to make connections). You must allot time to write every day. And most importantly, you must BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

If you want writing to be a hobby, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Writing isn’t a hobby for you – it’s more than that. It’s the portal to your story (and soul).

The real secret to a writer’s routine? Stay focused, educate yourself, and never get up.

So who you are – thinker or writer?  You choose.

I hope you choose the later.

I hope you choose the later.

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