How to Start a Writing Routine
Seven tips for creating a routine if you're struggling to complete your writing project.
By Christina Carè
While you’re not at the desk, you’re still working on your writing. Everything you do each day can inspire what you bring to the page tomorrow.
In this endless lockdown, and with all that extra time indoors, there’s one thing many of us might have in common: we’re dusting off that passion project and looking for how we can get it done!
Starting a writing routine can be the key to finally completing that project. Whether it’s a monologue, your next Fringe play or film script, creating a positive and regular routine that serves your practice is the best way to achieve your goal. Here’s how you can start your writing routine for success:
1. Start small and steady
Your routine doesn’t require hours upon hours per day. Consistency is the key, and while you may not want to work daily, it’s important to find a regular schedule that you can reasonably stick to. It might start with just 15 minutes daily and expand from there, or you might prefer 2-3 longer sessions per week.
Reflect on how your energy works. For me, it’s all about mornings. By the afternoon, my brain slows down to a halt, so I make the most of those early hours to get the writing down and then move on. Work with, not against, your most creative and energised rhythms.
2. Set the scene for your practice
Warming up into a writing session can take inspiration from all the other little things you do to get ready for a part or a performance. You might meditate, exercise, journal, or anything else that can help loosen things up to get started. Try your best to get dressed, make a hot drink or clear your working space to ensure you’re giving your brain the clue that it’s time to get writing.
3. Notice your feelings, then put them aside
Being aware of your feelings as you sit down to write can be empowering. For instance, if you notice your anxiety spiking just before you pick up the pen, it’s your opportunity to investigate not only where this is coming from, but also what you could do to ease it. Being aware of your feelings gives you the power to decide how much they will impact your budding routine.
In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy the psychological tool of acceptance acknowledges that we are allowed to feel a certain way without it impacting what we do. This means we can practice noticing challenging thoughts when they come up, but instead of letting them become a blocker, we give that feeling space, allowing those feelings to be there alongside you. Take a moment to really acknowledge your feelings but try to sit down to write anyway. Your feelings will likely still come up the next time you need to write – by habitually acknowledging them and writing anyway, you are showing yourself that you are committed to your values as a creative person.
4. Get a buddy on board
Accountability to someone else is a huge motivating factor. If nobody is knocking on your door for your masterpiece (yet!), this can be really tricky – it can feel isolating to work on your writing alone. So, find a buddy you can check in with. It can be as simple as dropping each other a text every so often to see how work is going. Adopt an attitude of non-judgement. You’re not there to berate each other if things aren’t going to plan, but to bolster each other’s confidence! Celebrate your wins, big or small, together.
If you don’t know any fellow writers, check out Meetup.com, where plenty of virtual writing sessions are still running. There, you can meet and check in with others.
5. Work on what is easy
This runs counter to the famous saying, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen the rest of the day.” Sorry Mark Twain, but if you’re starting to feel stuck, it’s actually much better to just move on to something easier, which allows you to maintain momentum. Of course, you’ll have to come back to the ‘hard parts’ of your project, but momentum is what will give you the confidence and drive to keep returning to the page.
6. Put down the red pen
Take note: no editing is allowed! You are not to review or edit any part of your work until it is done. In the words of Jodi Picoult: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Make this your new motto.
7. Remember that everything counts
While you’re not at the desk, you’re still working on your writing. Everything you do each day can inspire what you bring to the page tomorrow. Use what you watch, read or otherwise engage with as a springboard. Even if you haven’t quite made it to the page today, remember that you are still ‘writing’ as you absorb life.
Here’s one of my favourite quotes from Natalia Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones:
“This isn’t your last chance. If you missed the mouse today, you’ll get it tomorrow. You never leave who you are. If you are a writer when writing, you also are a writer when you are cooking, sleeping, walking. And if you are a mother, a painter, a horse, a giraffe, or a carpenter, you will bring that into your writing too. It comes with you.”
It's true that writing requires discipline and dedication. But use these tips to make your writing synonymous with joy and ease, too. Before you know it, you’ll be able to say it’s done.
If you're embarking on a writing project, we have lots of tips and advice about writing to help you out.
Christina Carè is a writer, editor and former Spotlighter working on her debut novel. She is represented by Kate Evans at Peters, Fraser + Dunlop. You can ask questions or keep in touch with her via Twitter.
Main image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash.