My Writing Routine Is Everything

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I got into the habit of writing every morning when I had a job where my hours were 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. I’d get home from work, completely exhausted, and realize that I didn’t have anything to show for it. I was telling people that I was a “writer,” but not actually getting any writing done.

So I decided to try waking up before work and writing for me. I figured that if I could get up at 6 a.m., then I’d have two hours to write before I’d need to get ready for work. Easy enough, right? That first morning when my alarm was set for 6, I hit snooze for about an hour. Then I woke up, got a paragraph done, and went to work. If I’m being honest, it took me about a month before I actually woke up at 6 without hitting snooze. But eventually, my body got used to the early wakeup call, and if I slept in, I started to miss that time when I could’ve been writing.

It’s been about three years since I had that terrible job, but the writing routine has stuck. I wake up at 6, I make coffee immediately. I wash my face. I sit at my couch with my computer, and I work for two hours. Some mornings I get four to five pages out, others I only get a page. Either way, getting any personal writing done makes me feel better.

Since starting this routine, I’ve discovered that a lot of famous writers were firm believers in viewing writing as something that had to be done everyday. I’m not a famous writer, but it makes me feel extra motivated to read that routines kept them in check too.

E.B. White said that,

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to that quote. I hear people regularly say that they want to write, but “haven’t found the time,” or “need to wait until things slow down.” It’s been my experience that life never really slows down, and when it does, that’s never the time when I’m actually writing. The only time I do write for me is in the mornings.

That being said, I don’t think morning routines are for everyone. My boyfriend, for example, is not a morning person. He’s a writer as well, and a successful one, but he just works much better in the afternoons and at night. Simone de Beauvoir was similar — aka not a morning person — but she still had a routine:

“I’m always in a hurry to get going, though in general I dislike starting the day. I first have tea and then, at about ten o’clock, I get under way and work until one. Then I see my friends and after that, at five o’clock, I go back to work and continue until nine.”

If you’re thinking of starting a writing routine, some things to consider include…

  • What do you want to write? Pick a project, or an idea you have, and try to make that part of the goal for your routine. (i.e. “OK, I want to write every day at 5 p.m. for an hour until this screenplay is finished.)
  • What time of day are you most productive? If you’re most productive during the time when you have a day job, that’s totally OK. Just try and think about when you’ll be able to keep momentum up, and focus on that time.
  • What do you need to motivate yourself? I am a very reward-based person. If I get up at 6, I’m rewarded with coffee. So maybe for you, if you write for an hour, you get a glass of wine.
  • Where do you work best? Personally, I love my couch. It’s nice to lay down on, and when I’m on it I feel ready to write. Some people work better in loud coffee shops though. So, figure out which space will be most conducive to your creativity, and

Do you have a writing routine? What’s your secret? (Mainly so that I can try it out!)