Creating a consistent writing routine has been a struggle for writers of all abilities for a long time. I just got back from a holiday and getting back into my writing routine has been challenging and maybe even a little bit intimidating. So it’s safe to say that I’m preaching to the choir on this one.
Let’s put this into perspective. I’ve been working since nine this morning, and it’s just after three in the afternoon. I have only just reached my goal for the novel I’m working on. That’s not because I’m a slow writer, it’s because I procrastinated for the first half of my workday.
Before my break from writing, I was great at meeting my writing goals and working to deadlines. This just happens to be a learnt skill. Consistency with writing is something that you can work on; it’s not something that has to hold you back or stop you from doing what you love.
Consistent writing means different things to different people. For some people, it’s once a month or once a week, for me, it’s Mon-Fri, pretty standard. I’ve tried to make this consistent writing routine thoery easily accessible no matter how many times you want to write.
Take this advice and apply it to the days that you want to get your writing done. Or don’t, I’m not going to tell you what to do.
Setting up your perfect writing day for your writing routine
Visualise your perfect day
When I ask you about your ideal writing day, what do you think of? Is it an emotion? A word count? An atmosphere? All of the above?
More and more, I realise that no matter how many words I write in a day, I haven’t yet accomplished my ideal writing day.
It turns out word count might not matter to me. So let’s get rid of any preconceived notions about what you would or wouldn’t like to accomplish. Basing your writing routine off of something you think you want won’t help you build that habit. You have to know what makes you feel good. Feeling good about your writing is one of the only ways to motivate yourself to return. If you’re not enjoying it why would you come back?
I’ve written over 12k words in a day before (my personal best), and it wasn’t my ideal writing day.
What we think we want from writing and what we actually want can be two different things. We need to take a step back and look at which parts of writing allows us to enjoy the process and focus on doing those more.
When building a habit, you want to focus on what feels good.
What do you like about writing and most importantly, what do you want to accomplish in your writing.
If you want to write a bunch of words that’s great, but why do you want to do that? Is it validation? Competition? Accomplishments?
Is your motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?
I recommend choosing an inherently intrinsic motivation. This means that on the days when you don’t feel like picking up the pen, you can still look at your goal and sit down to write.
One of my favourite writing days so far was a day that I wrote very little. It was maybe a thousand words which is a good number but less than I usually accomplish on a workday.
The thing that made this day perfect was a combination of weather and an atmosphere.
It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it was more a dark and stormy mid-afternoon. It was tipping it down, and the sound of rain against my window was so relaxing. I had a lo-fi playlist going in the background and a fragrant candle burning. My fairy lights were on, and I was in the zone. The tapping of the keys perfectly complimented the sound of the rain on my window.
That was my most perfect writing day so far.
It turns out that I love writing when I’m in an environment that makes me feel creative.
Often we writers get so caught up in what we are working on that we forget that what we are writing is art. We are allowed to be creative with our environments; we are allowed to be a little bit extra when setting up the office. If your perfect writing session is accompanied by something that seems unnecessary to your workday, please don’t stop yourself from doing it.
Writing is a creative work, so get creative with how you set yourself up. Creating as many perfect workdays as you can, especially in the beginning will help you associate writing as a positive experience, not an intimidating one.
Make your workspace work for you
I might not feel inspired at the start of every writing sessions, but often I feel inspired by the end of them. That’s because I’ve set up my workspace to be one that encourages me to work but also one that encourages me to play.
Sometimes getting back to a place of fun and entertainment can be great for your writing. If you’re not having fun writing your book, your reader probably won’t have fun reading it.
I recommend that at least once in a while, you optimise your workspace for creativity. I have a grey flamingo and a gnome I got for Christmas sitting on my desk acting as my’ writing partners’. Why? Because I think it’s funny. I like that the gnome peeks over my computer screen and that my flamingo is falling off the speaker. It’s stupid, but they inspire me, and they make me smile when I feel like throwing my monitor off of the desk.
Another more practical way of setting up your workspace is with a hydration or coffee station. Have your favourite snacks at hand and make sure that you are set up for the long run. I have a big water jug and my coffee machine set up right beside my desk. I don’t need to move for anything, this has been instrumental in preventing interruptions and enhancing my writing routine.
If you have everything you need nearby, you won’t have nearly so many starts and stops. Interruptions can be the death of creativity, so try to set yourself up with what you need before you start your writing session, you’ll find that you can get a lot more done in a short amount of time with a bit of preplanning.
Working when inspired not only helps you to create some beautiful gems of writing, but it can also help you reinforce your writing routine.
Creating a favourable environment for writing can help you return to that page. Writing becomes more and more of a positive experience, one that you want to keep returning to.
The first thing that I do on a Monday morning is I sit down with my schedule, and I carve out my writing time.
I get my schedule all set up and dedicate as much time as I want to writing. Notice that I said ‘want’. It comes back to the intrinsic goals thing.
I have a desire to write for a specific and personal reason. So every time I sit down to write, I get to feel as though I’m building towards something. Your goal can be anything from a financial incentive to a deadline. Just make sure it’s a goal that you want.
If you don’t want it, you’re not going to fight for it.
That being said, life gets busy, and different things pop up week to week.
Life is more than writing so make sure that you are making time for being with friends, family, relationships or just yourself. It’s important to show up for the people in your life; after all, it’s those people that inspire our art. You art is important. Being consistent with your art is important. People in your life are also important, it’s a balance so try to find it.
Let’s take a look at my two different schedules. In the summer on a Monday I write five articles, and edit them all on Tuesday and then schedule them to be posted throughout the workweek.
Now that my university is starting my week looks a little bit different.
I’m only writing two articles, but I’ve carved out time on my Tuesday – Friday to get some writing done. I still get to post and make money from my items, but I also have made time to focus on the other important things in my life.
Sometimes your writing needs to get put to the side, and that’s okay.
Give your writing the time you can afford, and your writing routine will still do just fine.
My advice is to try and get at least one writing session in every week. If you can do more great but don’t kill yourself for the sake of a few words. Remember that writing is supposed to be fun, and if you don’t want to show up or you feel too much pressure surrounding writing, you probably won’t show up to the keyboard anyway.
Writing isn’t a punishment; it should be something that you want to do, so write, however much you want.
Figure out when you are most creative
There is a difference between figuring out when you ‘can’ write and when you ‘should’ write. If your days are spent squeezing time in where there isn’t any, then don’t worry about this point, but if you have a lot of potential writing slots, then this is something to think about.
This means looking at things like when you produce the highest word count. When you feel your best about writing. When it’s quiet in your house, and you can get your work done in peace. All of these things factor into when you should try and schedule your writing.
Writers often have times when they are in peak creative mode. Some people are early birds. Some are night owls. I happen to be a permanently exhausted pigeon, so I write whenever I feel like it. I do stick to office hours though, so I guess I’m a pigeon in business casual clothing, typing away as fast as I can.
I will often write for a few hours at a time, occasionally taking a small youtube break or topping up my coffee and water vessels. You know, like a good human. This morning I was working on my novel that leaves this afternoon for rewriting and editing this article.
It took me a long time to realise that having no peak creative time. It took me longer to understand that this was valid. Even I have times of the day when I am slightly faster, usually towards the end of the workday so I can clock off a little bit earlier. That’s a motivation thing, though, not a creativity thing. What I’m trying to say is that my fellow permanently exhausted pigeons you are valid!
Let’s talk about where you should write
We’ve already discussed environment, but I haven’t touched on where you should be writing. Again, depending on who you are, this might not be important, but if you’re anything like me, you prefer to write in a specific place.
This is all about creativity.
Some writers love working in coffee shops or libraries. Writing in public makes me nervous. I’m a home bird. I have a big old desk and everything I need nearby. Write in a place where you feel comfortable, have access to fuel like food and water, but also be in an area that inspires you. I like to write at home, but I also like to write outdoors depending on where I have to write my productivity changes drastically.
Here are some of the habits I’ve noticed in myself when I’m writing in different locations
If I’m at home on my desk, I’m at my standard productivity rate, with some twitter and youtube breaks to distract me. Hey, I didn’t say I was perfect.
If I’m in a library or writing somewhere public, I will keep working regardless of whether or not I need a break. That’s good for productivity but awful for sanity and paranoia.
If I’m on the couch, I will open a word document and binge watch a NetFlix series while writing nothing.
If I’m in bed, I will write about two hundred words and fall asleep or start reading one of the books on my bedside table.
At least I’m self-aware.
Find the place that works best for you and keep returning to it. Unless what works for you is moving around regularly, do that instead.
A great start when it comes to writing routines is to find a place you feel like you can return to again and again. For me that’s my desk, I would prefer it to be outdoors but the weather simply doesn’t permit that kind of freedom. Find a place that isn’t weather or opening times dependant if possible, but write where you love to write, that’s the most important thing.
How to reach your writing routine goals
This piece of advice is one that I hear over and over, I used to roll my eyes at it, but I promise it is a game-changer! When it comes to building a writing routine goals can really help with returning to the desk.
This particular method can also be something that you use to help with intrinsic motivation. Say you want to finish your book by the end of the year and you know your genre usually has 80,000 words. You can break that down into a monthly, weekly, or daily word count goal depending on what works for you.
I recommend setting a goal that challenges you, but also a goal that you are pretty sure you can get done.
At the moment, five articles are challenging for me, but I know that I can do it, so that’s my goal. If I only set one article as a goal, I’m not inspiring myself to grow as a writer, but if I set ten as a goal, I will never achieve that. This again fluctuates depending on what I have going on, don’t expect yourself to perform to the same level each week. Life changes, so should you!
I’m not here to give myself too hard or too easy a time. I want to grow as a writer without feeling discouraged. Writing routines should be flexible to some degree depending on the other things you have going on in your life. If you are going for this full time though starting with a nine-to-five is a safe bet to try out.
I hate to admit it publically, but this particular motivator is one of my favourite parts of writing.
I love rewards.
It’s how I push myself forward through the hard times. It’s a simple concept. I give myself gifts for reaching my daily goals. They don’t have to be big gifts. It could be a slightly fancier coffee than I usually let myself drink, or maybe a chocolate bar. It can get even cheaper than that, though. Maybe I don’t have to fold the laundry until tomorrow if I reach a particular goal.
What rewards do is help you build a positive assoiciation with your writing routine. That’s exactly what you need at the beginning of your journey. You want to feel good about what you’ve done and this is one of the simplist ways to achieve those good vibes!
A reward can be whatever you want from a diamond necklace to facemask, though please consult your finances before doing anything crazy.
Rewards will be different from person to person, but I’m relatively simple in the way that I reward myself.
For you, a reward might be, a short walk outside, a cookie from the cookie jar, a top-up of coffee or a short Youtube break.
Positive reinforcement when it comes to writing, really helps to encourage a writing habit. It isn’t as hard to start writing when you know that good things are going to happen when you do get your writing done.
What if your writing routine still isn’t working for you?
Let’s be honest for a moment.
Sometimes we can be doing all of the things that usually inspire us, but creativity still won’t come.
It’s pretty easy for creatives to get stuck in a rut.
Creativity is a faucet that a lot of new and old hands struggle to turn on.
Being productive and being creative at the same time sometimes seems like an impossibility. That’s why it’s difficult to picture yourself hitting some of those higher word count goals.
When I was a new writer, I never believed that I could write more than 2k words in a day. I struggled to hit 500 on days when I felt inspired to write. I wish I could tell that writer that one day she would hit 12k. I would’ve loved to have seen her reaction. I look back and know that I’ve only come as far as I have because of the writing routine that I’ve built up.
The thing is that bigger word counts or more productive writing days aren’t something that is accomplished because anyone is a better writer or more creative than you. They are just hit by someone who shows up consistently to the page and pushes through to hit their word count goals.
Hitting the big numbers comes with consistency. So let’s work on that consistency.
Consistency itself can look big or small. It can look like five minutes of writing time or a 100-word goal. Consistency is a powerful tool when it comes to being creative.
Try to hit your writing goals consistently, and once you’ve got a good record, try to challenge yourself to keep beating those goals.
I only started to develop a creative writing habit once I publicly embarked on a 30-day writing journey.
I challenged myself to publish an article every day for 30 days.
Sometimes the quality of that work wasn’t great. The important thing was that I showed up to the page. I learnt a lot from the challenge, the biggest lesson that I learnt was that I could do it. I could publish every day for 30-days. So what was holding me back? Nothing holds me back anymore. I’ve done it in the past, and I can do it again. I’ve proved that to myself. So what do you need to prove to yourself?
Then believe in yourself and work to do it. Don’t think you can? How about you prove yourself wrong?
How can you help yourself?
It would help if you asked yourself a few questions when it comes to building a writing routine. Let’s look at a few of the most important ones.
Does the place that you are working in work for you? Is it too bright? Too dark? Too hot? Too cold? Is it clean and tidy, does it have the right amount of creative chaos? Does it have water and snacks readily available? Make sure that your environment is working for you and you’ll find it much easier to get your work done!
How are you feeling about getting writing done? Are you dreading your ‘to-write’ list? If you’re feeling pessimistic about writing, take a moment to assess why you feel that way. Will pushing forward with your work help get rid of the negative emotions or enhance it? If you feel negative, it’s better to step away and come back later. It’s important to make sure that you feel optimistic about what you are doing; feeling bad about your writing won’t encourage you to return.
If I don’t have the right kind of goals set for my day, I tend to struggle with productivity. If I set too many goals for myself I procrastinate, if I set too few goals, I slack off. I need to know that my goals are worthwhile accomplishing, and I need to challenge myself a little bit.
- Mental health
Sometimes I have days where it wouldn’t be healthy for me to write. On days like this, I take a step back and work on other tasks, transferring articles, editing, bra
instorming idea or other tasks.
It’s essential to look after your mental health, so don’t push yourself to write if it’s going to hurt you in the long run. If you hurt yourself now you might find yourself never returning to your writing routine, never being able to build that writing habit. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot for the sake of a days work.
Sometimes I can’t turn my creativity on. It just works like that. On days like these, I try freewriting or writing about my lack of imagination. Often once I’ve started typing the words begin to flow again!
Other things to consider
If you’ve made sure that all of the above are working for you and not against you, but you’re still not being productive, it’s time to look at your work method.
I went through a period a while back where I was so unproductive it was painful. There was procrastination, mental blocks, frustrated cleaning sprees. It got pretty ugly. What I needed to do was look at my workday and figure out why sitting down at a computer and ticking off things from my to-do list wasn’t working for me.
It turned out that it was my work method. Simply sitting down and picking something to do wasn’t working for me. I had to approach my day with intention and give myself something to look forward to.
Cue my sister.
My sister called me one day in an equal amount of lack of productivity frustration and asked if we could work together over skype. She pulled out this app that uses the Pomodoro method and set it to work.
Just like that, all of my productivity frustrations fell away. Working in 25-minute increments turned out to be precisely what I needed to focus my day and get my work done!
Twenty-five minutes of intense focus worked for me. It was just long enough to get a substantial amount of work done but no so long that I wasn’t willing to start the next session right away. It was perfect for me.
Find your method.
There are lots of methods out there for productivity if what you’re doing now isn’t working for you anymore maybe it’s time you switch it up. Go exploring.
There is a whole world of people just like you, who struggle with productivity. That’s why these techniques exist. They are there to be used.
Find something that works for you and keep going with it. It’s never too late to try something new, who knows, maybe changing your structure will be good for your productivity by itself!
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!