There. Now you're all caught up, let's mix our metaphors and take an old chestnut by the horns.
The Writing Routine.
Bear with me. I know that an awful lot has been said about this by writers with much bigger profiles than me, but I want to cut through the pretentious stuff.
You do not have to have a regular writing routine, but if you do, you will write more and your writing will be of a higher quality.
And here's another thing that I sincerely believe. It does not matter one tiny sub-atomic particle what that routine is, so long as you have one.
You can write in the early hours of the morning or late at night. You can write in a coffee shop or on a bus. You can write with your feet in a bucket of iced water and balance a herring on your head if you want to.
Write every day if you can, but if you can't, then that's fine too. One day a week is a lot better than none. Half an hour is better than no writing at all.
Just so long as you set a routine and you stick to it.
We all like to think of writing and writers as special. We all have our favourite writers and we would all (secretly) like to be as great as they are. So people always ask writers when they write, for how long, do they use a pen or a laptop and so on.
It's a bit like asking an Olympic 100m Sprint champion what shoes he wears. It might feel important, but it doesn't due justice to the many heartbreaking hours of hard work that the athlete has put in.
So let's focus on the parts of the process that matter.
We are all, to some degree, creatures of habit. Our brains respond to routine in the same way that a wheel follows a well-worn groove in the road. The hard part is making the groove in the first place and, of course, making sure that your groove is heading in the right direction.
Our brains are just as good, if not better, at picking up bad routines as they are adept at establishing good ones. So sort out some ground rules right from the start.
Your phone should not be in the same room and, if possible, limit your access to the internet. You could try turning off the wifi on a laptop but on a desktop there are programs you can use. But be wary of this if you use your network for backups. I have an automated backup running to a NAS on my home network and I also have Livedrive which backs files up remotely. If I disable my network connection, then there goes my safety net.
However, we can all, at the very least, close all browsers and our email clients.
Try to establish the rule that your family or flatmates or cohabitees do not disturb you when you're writing. It helps if you are prepared to limit your sessions to a certain time-slot. It's much better to say, “I'll do that at 8:30 when I've finished,” than it is to hurl your thesaurus at the door whilst screaming, “Go away I'm writing.” It also saves on thesauruses.
Music may or may not help. A pair of comfy headphones will eliminate a lot of household noise and that can be very useful.
Write down a list of your writing times and stick it on the wall. Stick it on several walls.
Whilst you're writing, keep an eye on the time if you can. I completely lose track of time when I'm writing and I suspect many of you do too. That's nice up to a point, but it can throw the whole routine out the window.
I'm thinking of buying a simple, battery powered digital clock with a stop-watch built in. And no, I don't want to use a fancy app – I'd only end up twiddling with it. I believe that Johnny B Truant uses something similar (@JohnnyBTruant) and he is renowned in the self-publishing world for his productivity. And his peaked cap.
OK. That's about it. Notice that I haven't said anything about word counts. If a target works for you, then fine. If it puts you off, then forget about it. Even without a target, it is nice to monitor your word count though. Hopefully you'll see an improvement as your routine comes into effect.
Above all else, stick to your routine. It doesn't matter if you don't feel like it. Just do it anyway. If you get stuck on one project, work on a second project for a while e.g. when you're fed up of editing one book, start outlining your next piece. Or why not start a collection of short stories, flash fiction or poetry. It's all good stuff and it's all writing.
If your routine really isn't working then adapt it, but never abandon it completely.
Right, that's all i can think of for now. Comments always welcome.
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