I spent a lot of time worrying about how to create a writing routine when I was younger, and I gotta say, I focused on the wrong things. If I’m being real, I was trying to create a ritual, which wasn’t getting me anywhere.
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Original photo by Annie Spratt
I obsessed over stories about writer peculiarities, and I asked a lot of writers if they had any rituals themselves. Sometimes they’d tell me about their specific coffee, or how they liked to walk their dogs at a certain time so they could think about their stories when the sun was at a certain level. But mostly, they just told me they wrote.
And like, that’s good information. But also, HOW?!
How does one get one’s butt in a chair and hands on a keyboard when the day job wants you to show up and you have to work out and cook dinner and run errands and answer the door?How does one get one's butt in a chair and hands on a keyboard when the day job wants you to show up and you have to work out and cook dinner and run errands and answer the door? Click To Tweet
I can’t say that I have the answers to that. But I think I do have a good idea of how you can approach building a writing routine.
(Also: Apparently there is no magic pill? Like, you can’t make any blood sacrifices to get words on the page? And don’t even get me started on the lack of bubbling cauldrons in modern writing.)
If you head on over to YouTube, you can see how my morning writing routine usually shakes out.
But if you’re looking for advice for how to create a writing routine, I got you, fam.
How to Create a Writing Routine
001: Know what has to be done every single day and get them out of the way.
While I don’t advise anyone to live completely on autopilot, you gotta autopilot those things that matter, but not in the big philosophical sense. So, like, getting out of bed and getting dressed. That’s something that has to happen, but it’s not a thing that anyone will ever remember you for. So, when it comes to those kinds of things, you need to make them super easy and quick to complete. Then, they’re out of the way, and you can attack the writing.
For me, I get up and work out first thing. (I’ve pushed morning pages to after that, because it’s too hard to workout after I’ve been chilling on my couch. And I’m also finding that sometimes I don’t want to do morning pages because I just want to work on my project. You’ll see that in today’s YouTube video.) Working out is the important thing that I need to do every weekday, and the only way to ensure that I get it done is to tackle it first thing. So I start there and get it out of the way.
Though, honestly, there are some days where I don’t do it. Sometimes, you need to sleep in.
002: Pick the days you will absolutely write.
I know that there are days when I won’t be super productive as a writer. Sure, I may be able to get a sprint in, but I would prefer to write on days when I can do at least 3-4 sprints instead. But just being aware of my actual schedule and making peace with the fact that I won’t always be able to write is really important for me, because it prevents me from getting down on myself about not writing.
I learned this in Sarra Cannon’s HB90 planning course, and it’s honestly been a game changer for me. Making allowances for days when you won’t really be able to get writing done has helped me make realistic goals for my writing. And knowing the days that I have set aside for writing helps not fill up those times with other things. I’m terrible about filling up free time with other activities, but picking the times I will write helps me schedule that time for writing.
003: Cut out the mindless activities that eat into writing time.
Sure, it’s cool to just check Instagram real quick. But does anyone just check Instagram real quick? I know I don’t. I manage to scroll through my whole feed and watch every single story too. And when I’m done, I realize that I’ve lost an hour and a half, which is plenty of time for three 25-minute writing sprints and breaks. But that time is gone, and I won’t get to do the sprints.
I’m not saying that anyone should cut out down time. You totally need that. But I know I have to more intentional about my downtime. I try not to look through Instagram unless I can give myself some time to do it. That’s why I tend to check in at the end of the day. This is also why I use Tailwind to schedule all my Instagram posts ahead of time — so I don’t have to pause momentum for the day to post and potentially get sucked into looking at pretty pictures.
004: Make time and space for it.
So I mentioned this one a bit earlier, but I know I have to schedule my writing time. (I’m all about scheduling creativity, y’all.) I’m not time blocking as aggressively as I did last year, but that’s why I’m talking about routines today. You don’t need to time block if you make everything a routine. And while I don’t want to autopilot the process of writing, I do want to autopilot the mental struggle of getting my ass to my chair and my hands on the keyboard. Because that takes some next-level strength every single damn day.
For me, a key component of making time and space for something is knowing what I have the capacity to do in one day and when I’ll have energy to write. So, I know I really can’t write easily after work. Teaching takes a lot out of me, and I’m way too tired to get anything done. So, if I actually want to get some words down, I need to schedule my writing time before work. Or on days when I don’t have to teach.
005: Be flexible.
So here’s where my use of the word “routine” may go out the window. The thing about real life is that it comes at you hard and fast, and sometimes you have the best of intentions, but life is all “Nah, kid. We ain’t doing that today.” So, you may miss out on writing at a time when you normally want to do that. Sure, it only comes up once in a while, but it’s enough to derail you when you’re on a roll.
I can’t let myself get too tied up in perfectionism or the need to keep a streak going. It would be great if I could, but I know I can’t. I also know there are times of year where I’ll be grading a lot of papers, and won’t really be able to do a lot of writing. It can feel really disheartening when your day job or obligations get between you and your novel, but there’s not much you can do other than let it happen and know you’ll get back to writing soon.It can feel really disheartening when your day job or obligations get between you and your novel, but there's not much you can do other than let it happen and know you'll get back to writing soon. Click To Tweet
What Are Your Tips for Creating a Writing Routine?
How do you make time and space for a writing routine? Do you plan out which days you’ll write for sure? Which mindless activity steals your writing time? What tasks do you autopilot so you can make space for other stuff?