I Have No Writing Routine & Other Writerly Problems

I’ve realized something a little unsettling this week – I don’t have a writing routine anymore. I don’t think I ever had much of one – I usually wrote early in the morning or late at night, for unspecified periods of time. I wrote when I had the motivation. Which is not productive enough for someone who wants to be published.

Any attempt at a writing habit was squashed during the holidays – I get too busy and it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything when all you want to do is catch up on sleep.

I really want to be productive this year, and I find I’m not spending enough time writing. More than that, I struggle to know what I should be working on.

And I should be writing a lot more than I am. Especially if I hope to make a living. I have to treat this like a business and not a hobby, and I’ve got some bad habits lingering in these first few months. A quick look at my writing tracker reveals how shameful my efforts to write have been.

The BXP 2020 Writing Challenge

Maybe it was fate that I happened to listen to more recent episodes of The Bestseller Experiment podcast and I learned about the BXP 2020 Writing Challenge. The challenge is a simple one – write a page every day. That’s 200 words, every single day until the end of the year where you should hopefully have a finished novel.

Now, I don’t normally endorse the idea that you HAVE to write every day, because I think sometimes you need a break, but I do think you should write OFTEN. And let’s be honest, I’m not doing either right now and I plan to change that.

But more than writing more regularly, I want to create a writing routine. Unfortunately, I’m not sure where to start, which is where the experimentation comes in. I’ve got a few ideas for how to figure out which time of day works best for me, and the sort of routines I can inject to make the process easier. I’ve also been heavily inspired by the writing routine videos of Kate Cavanaugh on Youtube and similar posts by Shaunta Grimes. I think it’s such an interesting idea to try the routine of other, far more accomplished writers to see what you can incorporate into your own productivity systems and it’ll tell you a great deal about what works for you as a writer. And of course, what doesn’t.

So I figured I’d give it a shot myself. My routine is a literal blank slate right now, and I really want to figure out a routine that works for me, and then stick to it.

Some of the authors whose writing routines I’d like to try include:

  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Tad Wiliams
  • Joanna Penn
  • V.E. Schwab
  • Shannon Mayer
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Lindsay Buroker
  • John Scalzi

Everyone listed here is either a published author in my genres of choice and/or exceptionally prolific. They are also writing in the year 2020. As fascinating as Tolkien or Austen or Christie’s routines might be, they didn’t have to contend with social media or video games, so I’m not sure how much their routines will have an effect on me. I also want to test this with both indie and traditionally published authors, because let’s be honest, the speed of a successful indie author’s publishing schedule is much faster than the trad route. And maybe I’m also a little curious to see if there are any differences there.

Some of these will admittedly be a bit difficult (I do have a job after all and many of the authors I’ve listed are full-time), so I might have to adjust things accordingly, but I’m hoping to be as faithful as I can be to these routines, to see if what works for them might also work for me. I plan to spend at least a few days (sometimes as long as a week) doing as these authors do so I can get a real feel for their routine.

My Current Writing Experiment

From now until the end of Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I plan to mess around with my routine from week to week to see what works best for me. Hopefully, by the end of next month, I’ll have some inkling of what works better for me. I’d rather go into these author routine experiments with a little insight.

The first attempt, starting tomorrow, will be focused on the early morning. I plan to wake up at 7am, get breakfast, stretch, and check emails. Starting at 8am I’ll be brainstorming what I want to write, maybe take a walk, weather permitting, to clear my head, and begin writing around 9am. I plan to write until noon and then break for lunch. My afternoons will be spent working on other things – social media, editing blog posts, promoting my blog, updating old content and the like. Assuming I don’t have work to go to, of course. After dinner is free time for me to do what I like. Whether that be impromptu writing sessions, binge-reading or a couple hours of video games.

By pairing this experiment with the BXP challenge, I’m forcing myself to write every day, and thus forcing myself to consider my routine, and adapt as necessary to create a routine that suits my personal and creative needs.

The goal for each writing session, as per the BXP challenge I’m signing up for is to write at least a page a day (which I see as 250 words a day rather than the challenge’s 200).

It might seem weird how much effort I’m putting into this writing routine thing, but I want to be a published writer, and I want to try and make a living by writing fiction. So I need to find a way to capitalize on my writing energy every day instead of just writing haphazardly and hoping for the best. I need to discipline myself, and I think the best way to do that is with a routine I can stick to that will get me the results I need.

Some of the things I want to know include:

  • Am I a morning writer, an afternoon writer or a night writer?
  • Should I listen to music, sound effects, or total silence?
  • Do I work better at home or should I make regular trips to a coffee shop or library?
  • Should I edit as I go or keep the drafting entirely separate?
  • What sort of word count goal should I be aiming for with each writing session?
  • How many hours am I able to write consistently every day?

Every Routine is Different

And I don’t just mean from writer to writer. I by no means plan on adopting another author’s routine and hoping it works for me. But I’m hoping it will show me what I need to do to fit writing into my life in the most optimal way. And I know that my routine might need to shift with each project. What worked for one might not work in the same way for the next. Or the one after that.

I guess I just want to find my baseline and understand what works best for me and create that routine so I’m writing consistently. And often. Did I mention that yet? I need to write more.

Routine in Times of Unpredictability

There’s no doubt that the world is in a tumultuous place right now. Just a few weeks ago my sister and I were making plans for an overseas trip but with everything going on with COVID-19, it’s really thrown a lot of plans into disarray. Here in Canada, there are more and more closures every day, and there is unspoken anxiety in the air, no matter where you go. People are nervous, and it makes really rudimentary things like going to work and grocery shopping way more stressful than they used to be.

So maybe a little routine is exactly what I need. A part of my life that I can control even while everything else goes a little crazy.

But I digress.

I have a lot of work to do this year, and the clock is ticking.

Do You Have a Writing Routine?

Do you have a method that works for you? Did it come about as a result of circumstance or trial and error? Is there any other author you’d like to see me attempt to write like? Let me know in the comments!

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