With the start of a new school year, I couldn’t keep from looking at the calendar and having a near panic-attack. During the month of September, in addition to the usual work of teaching, mothering, and managing my busy household, I’m attending a national writer’s conference, getting ready for my first book-signing, preparing for my debut launch party, writing up interviews, and starting other marketing efforts.
With everything going on, I couldn’t help but wonder how I would ever get anything done. And when would I have time for the additional edits I’m sure to get from my publisher on Book 2? And how would I find time to continue researching Book 3?
As I pondered the upcoming month, I decided to sit down and write up a weekly schedule. Then I could see exactly where I’d have free time and how much. Once I did that, I was able to find pockets here and there most days when I’d have time to devote to my writing.
How important are writing routines in helping us strive toward success? Does it really make all that much difference whether we plan out our days and weeks, or can we work at writing in a hit-or-miss fashion and still achieve the same results?
I love what James Scott Bell says in The Art of War for Writers: “A goal is just a dream unless it has legs.” Not everyone thrives in a structured routine, but I think the more specific and intentional we are with our writing goals, the more likely we are to seeing our dreams come true. In other words, we need to give our goals “legs.”
What are some of the ways we can get specific in developing writing routines? Here are just a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear yours too.
1. Make a plan.
When I’m in the process of writing my first drafts, I give myself daily word count goals. I keep track of how many words I write a day in a notebook, challenging myself to 800 to 1000 words. When I’m editing, I usually give myself the goal of one chapter a day. When I’m researching, I give myself a daily time schedule—like, reading and researching for three hours every day.
Not everyone can or wants a daily word count or editing goal or hourly research quotas. Some people would just dry up and wilt under the structure. But . . . if we don’t give ourselves any tangible goals or deadlines to help us get to our destination, we risk wandering off the path, getting lost or distracted, or even taking much longer than necessary.
So, my advice is to come up with some kind of “map,” something that can keep us on track—whether that’s clocking in a certain number of minutes a day, weekly word counts, or monthly deadlines.
2. Stick to the plan.
When I make my plan, I let my family know. My husband and kids then ask me, “Have you met your word count yet today, Mom?” Even my four year old daughter “types” on her Barbie laptop and does her “word count.” Their questions not only give me accountability, but when my goals are tangible, it’s easier for them to support and understand what I’m doing.
And likewise, when I stick to my plan and take it seriously, day after day, my family has grown to accept that it’s part of my life. I try really hard not to let other activities interfere with the time that I set aside specifically for writing.
3. Challenge the plan.
For some of us, it’s all too easy to get into a comfortable routine. We grow complacent with our word counts, complacent with our methods, and perhaps even too busy to learn more. Before I delve into my next book project, I want to look at the areas where I need to grow, and I want to challenge myself to try new things, push myself to write with more diligence, and be even more productive.
~Summary: We need to have a long term vision for our writing and dream big dreams. But then we need to give those dreams momentum, get them moving forward, and keep them on track . . . and that’s where a writing routine of some kind can help. The routine can guide us and prod us until we finally reach our destination.
Do you have a writing routine of some kind? How does it help you stay on track? Do you think most writers can benefit from some kind of routine?