How to Create a Writing Routine

One of the biggest excuses we writers have about not writing is that we don’t have the time. I get it. We have kids, pets, or spouses to take care of, jobs that eat away our lives, volunteer positions that make the days long, and health issues that steal creativity. Sometimes it really does feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

So how does writing fit in and still allow you to get enough sleep at night?

Well, that depends on the writer. Some people work better in short spurts. Others need longer periods to craft their stories. Here are a couple of ideas that can get you started.

Word Count Routine: Set a word count for yourself that you need to achieve by the end of the day. It can be 50 words or 5,000 words. Choose what feels comfortable for you. Make sure you start out small. You want to create an attainable goal, otherwise you’ll just be disappointed if you don’t reach it. One author said her goal was to write a sentence each day because sometimes a sentence is all you need to get back into the story. This can be completed at random periods throughout the day or in one sitting.

Sprints: One of the fun exercises that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) people like to do is sprints. No, I don’t mean run around a building (though I think we could all use a chance to stretch our legs). Someone will set a timer, usually about five or ten minutes, and then everyone writes as fast and as much as they can in that time period. The goal is to have the most text written by the end. Friendly competition might get your brain moving or at least keep it motivated. You don’t have to do it for very long, but you can get a lot out of it. The more you do it, the more you’ll get used to it. This is a great thing to do if you’re with a group of writers and trying to help one another get motivated.

Time Routine: Similar to the previous two, time routine means you set a certain amount of time to write. Maybe you want to make sure you write for 30 minutes every day, no matter the word count. Treat this like a work meeting. This isn’t something you can just “miss” each day. For me, I tend to start writing at about 9pm because that’s when my day ends. My friend, romance author Eliza David, likes to write at about 5am when I’m still dead asleep. Sit down, shut off all distractions (that includes twitter!) and just write. Make sure you have a timer. You can also use a phone app to help you stay focused. Forest is a great one. The entire time you work, you grow a virtual tree. Eventually you can make a little forest. If you stop early, your tree dies and never goes away. Morbid, I know, but it’s a good motivator.

Weekday/Weekend Routine: Sometimes a busy life means you can’t write everyday, and that’s okay. You have to have time to take care of you and everything else in your life. If that’s the case, schedule a time during the week or weekend that you can devote solidly to writing. Maybe Friday night is your night. Someone else takes the kids or cooks dinner. This is time for you and your craft. You can set up times every other night if you’re able to fit it into your schedule. Do what works for you.

Spurt Routine: A spurt routine is a little similar to sprints, only you’re not racing anyone. This routine comes from taking whatever available time you have in the day to write. Maybe you have 10 minutes at breakfast to get out a paragraph or two. You’re waiting at the doctor’s appointment; what a great time to jot down ideas or outlines. Friend running late? Pull out that journal and write some sentences. This may seem a little haphazard, but honestly, I sometimes get some of my best writing out this way. I have an intense 5 or 10 minute session where I just focus on nothing else but my writing. By the time I’me done and have to leave for work or get called back for my doctor’s appointment, I might have made my word count. Heck, I could have written half of a chapter during the hour it took me to get into one of my doctors!

People who truly want to write will find time in their daily lives to make writing important. You might have to give up an extra episode on Netflix, or maybe you can’t get together with friends on a certain night of the week, but we sometimes have to make sacrifices to do something we love. Keep in mind, though, that if you pick a routine that just doesn’t work for you or seems too insurmountable, it’s okay to change it. Try it for a month or two. If it doesn’t feel right, try something else until something sticks.

And remember, it’s okay if you don’t write everyday. We all need breaks, and if you really don’t feel the passion to put words on paper, don’t beat yourself up. Breathe. Take a step back. Adjust your routine. Going from a timed routine to a weekday routine might work better for you.

What kind of routines do you follow?

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