People love to ask me how long it takes to write certain pieces or how I find income through this crazy thing called the internet. I’m asked about the self-control it takes to sit in front of a screen for hours on end, typing away obsessively, completely devoid of the mindless entertainment bliss that is Netflix or reddit. Well, the truth is, I don’t.
I don’t sit for hours on end attempting to binge-write. Binging is great with tv shows or reading or donuts, but it’s really not all that workable for writing. Writing is a practice that demands patience and creativity and creative interjection doesn’t get summoned at will. It’s finicky and particular and although you can cultivate space and moods to help it along, it’s really its own drum-beater.
It’s taken many months for me to figure out my own routine and just as long to recognize the things that were sabotaging it. Things like guilt because I felt I was screwing up or wasting time on a pursuit that had negligible gains in its early days, or ‘responsible distraction,’ that wonderful excuse to leave my work for the social demands of friendship or the cuddling needs of my pup. It’s so easy to find something to be preoccupied by when you’re meant to be sitting alone with your mind and a blank word document in front of you. So here are my tips and tricks to creating a completely feasible and comfortable writing routine that doesn’t have you chained to your desk:
1. Designate a writing space.
I spent months writing wherever I plopped myself down. Sometimes that was on the couch, or the floor or my bed or at the kitchen counter as I leaned awkwardly over my laptop while perched on a wobbly bar stool. Anywhere with a sort-of surface was good enough. But I knew what I wanted, *what I needed* from the early onset of my practice, and that was a desk. One that I would spend countless hours looking for and building into my own writing sanctuary.
Having a place that is solely for the purpose of writing is key. Decorate it with the comforts that are important to you – a good chair, books, candles, plants, photographs or inspiring art. Make it somewhere you want to be but keep the major distractions to a minimal. My own space is set up in the corner of my bedroom, away from the tv or kitchen with my desk sitting under the window so I’ve always got the option to look up and steal inspiration from the passing world. I keep it neat and organized, clear of clutter and the mess that threatens to spill over from the rest of my life because my desk is its own oasis.
2. Wake up early.
Yeah, I went there. If this is your job, you need to treat it like so. That means prioritizing and being a little disciplined with yourself. Lounging in bed all morning may be a wonderful luxury but save it for Sundays and use your weekdays instead to give your writing the respect it deserves if you’re aiming for professionalism. Obviously schedules vary, but I’m a big believer in rising early for my own work and notice that I feel more fulfilled and proud of myself come noon when I look down and see that my word count has climbed with the day still spread out before me.
3. Music sets the tempo.
Listening to music while writing at a Starbucks or other coffee houses started out as a way for me to escape their sounds – to dampen the noise of the espresso machine or blur the conversations around me. I could isolate myself while being surrounded by people and even still have the secretive option of muting the music in my ears and eavesdropping on those same people to steal lessons in realistic dialogue. There were so many wins and then the cheery on top was the boost the musical wall gave my productivity. The right playlist on the right day could provide the perfect soundtrack to my writing and somehow my concentration would just be so on point.
4. Time management!
As ideal as it is to wake up early to tackle your practice, sometimes you’re juggling other jobs, kids, furry kids, errands and all the life things at once and the time slot for writing shrinks and sometimes gets shuffled out of the picture completely.
It happens. It’s not something to beat yourself up over.
But there’s so much to be said for good time management. To designating that hour normally spent watching tv to finishing a page or untangling the concept for a new article by drafting it out. Every week we have our outline drawn up by work and appointments and responsibilities that week after week fill hours so you’re the best judge of the time you have. Work your writing into a slot that fits your preexisting schedule and keep to it. Even if at first you squirm at the newly pinned time block, the longer you keep to it the more habitual it’ll become.
5. Make the routine your own.
On the days I write I get up early, run or take the dog for a good walk, shower, put on some hot water, make breakfast, sit down at my desk with a steaming beverage of choice in an absurdly large mug, get my headphones on and open my lap top. There’s always a warm drink in reach and maybe a burning candle on especially chilled mornings. Around me a mess of papers steadily grows as I work and I brake occasionally to snack-up or stretch. I don’t put a timer on or demand a specific word count to be reached but I keep track of my output regardless. When I’m done, I’m done and when I feel like switching projects, I do so. This is mine and what I do and what makes me happy.
The biggest secret to keeping to your routine is to individualize it. Make it yours and make it something you enjoy because if it’s a chore you’re more likely to sabotage yourself with guilt or tempting digital distractions. Just don’t forget that you’re doing this for yourself.