Every writer needs a few useful things in their toolbox. A healthy dose of creativity, inspiration and a bit of talent all go a long way in a writing career. However, these skills might not amount to much if you are not making time to put them to good use. Creating—and sticking to—a writing routine is one of the most effective ways to hone your writing skills while also increasing your writing output.
Your writing routine should reflect what you need most. Don’t try to force your favorite author’s morning writing habit of rising at 5 a.m., going for a run and then writing for several hours straight if you have a job or young kids. Instead, put your creative skills to use to create something that works with your own life and schedule.
You’ll want to start off slow if you’ve only been writing sporadically or when inspiration strikes. Start off by sitting down with your calendar and picking just two days to initiate the process. Ask yourself some of the following questions during this process:
- Will I write in the morning, afternoon or at night?
- Which days have the fewest obligations?
- Can I reschedule prior engagements to make room for writing?
Once you’ve picked your days and times, be sure to create reminders. Set a reminder on your phone or place sticky notes near your writing area. Loop in a friend or writing buddy and ask him or her to hold you accountable to your plans.
Your phone might be the perfect tool for reminding you of your writing routine, but it could also derail your writing session. When it’s time to write, turn your phone on silent and preferably leave it in a different room. If for any reason you can’t leave your phone in another room—maybe you have small children at school and are the point of contact—place it on silent and keep it at a distance. Set a timer and allow yourself to briefly check notifications every 15-20 minutes.
It’s not just phones that can get in the way of writing, though. Consider turning off your Wi-Fi or writing by hand if the internet pulls too strongly on your attention. Keep the TV turned off and let everyone else in your house know that you are writing and are not to be interrupted unless it is an emergency.
Do your best to go into each writing session with a goal. Maybe you’d like to add 1,000 words to your manuscript, or perhaps you’d be happy to just finish a difficult scene. You could even be sitting down to do some writing exercises. Your goals don’t have to be big, but they should be clear. Giving yourself defined expectations will help you focus and get to work.
It also helps to have a reward waiting for you. If you’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for the newest episode of The Great British Baking Show, reward yourself by watching it after you’ve hit your writing goal for that session. You can also reward yourself with:
- A piece of your favorite candy
- Going for a relaxing walk with your dog
- Getting a coffee
- Buying a new journal
Now that you’re writing one or two days a week it’s time to start building momentum. Add in one or two more days and, most importantly, stick to it! A routine only works when it’s followed. Once you’ve built yourself up to writing at least five days a week, you’ll probably start to see a vast improvement in your writing.
One of the best things about establishing a writing routine is that you’ll no longer be waiting around for inspiration to strike. Instead, you’ll be channeling your skills into creating inspiration when it is needed. Being a professional writer and author hinges on having these skills at your disposal, which makes creating your own writing routine essential.