5 Tips for Establishing Your Perfect Writing Routine
If you are like more than half of the people in this country, you probably have a job that takes up forty or more hours of your week (cue Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”). As a school teacher, I am currently taking on an abnormal amount of work. Busy would be an understatement to describe my current situation, and one thing keeps getting put on the backburner… my writing routine. If you also feel like your day job is starting to slowly replace your writing routine, don’t let it! Here are a few tips on how to keep your writing routine on the front burner. Keep in mind, not all writing advice is universal, so find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
1. Create a Work-Life Balance.
I’ll admit it, this one is the hardest to follow and easiest to forget. But having some kind of work-life balance is a necessity. Start by tracking your time. This can help you find gaps in your day that you may not have realized you had. Once you have a plan, stick to it. One policy of mine is to not look at any emails after 6o’clock in the evening; this little trick turns my brain off work-mode and helps me wind down quicker. Additionally, be sure to leave work at work. I personally schedule certain days a week (two to three depending on my workload) where I cannot bring anything home with me. These are my nights to do what I please and focus on what I love.
2. Use Sticky Notes. Lots of Sticky Notes.
There is nothing worse than having a brilliant idea and having nothing to write it down on. Sticky notes are especially helpful if you have no time to write. These colorful squares of paper can start as the place where you jot down a simple idea and then blossom from there. They can organize thoughts into a physical space besides floating around in your head, where you are very likely to forget them, and can even be a space saving method to plot out your ideas. Larger ones can also be used to help you flesh out who a character is and what makes them who they are.
3. Burn the Midnight (or Midday) Oil.
Sometimes days/nights off are the most precious time we have. That to-do list we have been putting off can finally be tackled and we can maybe get a few more hours of sleep. But whatever amount of free time you have, set aside an hour or two for writing. Surprisingly, there are several moments throughout a day when writing can be squeezed in. If you are a morning person, consider getting up before your alarm; start with thirty minutes and add time as necessary. Another time when writing can be done is in the time between dinner and when you go to bed. If you work better at night, consider taking a few extra hours before going to sleep.
4. Set Goals.
There are several ways to set writing goals. One way is to make different nights of the week a different goal: Mondays are planning days, Tuesdays are writing days,, Wednesdays are editing days, etc. You can also set a timer so that you do not spend all your set aside time planning and not writing. Make the goals reasonable and realistic for the time that you do have.
5. Read, Read, Read!
The king of horror, Stephen King, once said “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Reading can be more than just pleasure or relaxation for a writer. Reading can help you develop the tone of your novel. If you are interested in writing a certain genre, it is a good idea to scope out other stories in this genre so that you get a feel for what is expected. Reading a genre that you are writing, on the other hand, can help you shape your characters. Each genre has its own set of narrative conventions. For example, mystery novels usually have a broken main character/ narrator. But take this note with a grain of salt, just because every writer in a certain genre does it one way does not mean you have to do this. Find out what works for your story and then move forward from there.
These are just a few ways to keep your writing routine at the forefront, but it’s important to start small. Slowly build up to having a perfect work and writer life balance. Think about it, if you get your writing done and get published, you may not have to stay in your day job much longer. So keep writing that novel! You’ve got this.