I’m no expert in human behaviour, but as far as I can tell, we as a species thrive on routine. I know for a fact that both my sons behave better when they know what to expect. For example, this morning school was delayed for two hours because of the weather. So instead of eating breakfast at 7:00, getting dressed at 7:35, and walking out the door at 8:05, my sons and I lay in bed until 7:15, ate breakfast at 8:00, watched television until 9:45, and then I had to rush everyone to get dressed and out of the house at 10:00. We’re adaptable, thank goodness, and everything worked out okay. But the little change certainly made things more hectic. And all my morning chores that are usually done by 8:00 a.m. didn’t get done until about 11:00.
So routines are good-they give us a rhythm to follow through key parts of the day. They also make writing big projects, like books, easier to finish. That’s the hardest part, you know, actually finishing the book.
Routines get you in the habit and before long, you’ve done your writing for the day without any struggle or difficulty at all. Writing becomes one of those tasks you do every day, like making the bed or washing a load of laundry. But although most people accomplish more on routines, they aren’t always easy to establish. It almost seems like you’re the kind of person who establishes routines automatically or you aren’t. I fall in the second category for sure. I don’t naturally establish routines; I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, which makes it difficult to get things done.
I have to consciously make the effort to build habits that keep me organized and on track, with my writing and other areas of my life. If I want the house to be clean, I have to work straightening up into my routine. If I want my blog to be updated every day, I have to find somewhere to fit it into the rhythm of my life. And if I want to write a book, I have to give myself a deadline, break the project down into small assignments, put the task on my to-do list, pour my cup of coffee, and then show up to write at my desk in the morning. Motivation waxes and wanes, so when I don’t feel like doing anything, I have my routines to fall back on, to coax me into productivity.
When I’m working with a client or student and they’re struggling to find time to write I encourage them to work writing into their normal routine. I have found for myself, and many other writers, that if you clear calendar days and make writing a big deal, that you won’t make the kind of progress you do when you make writing a little part of every day. And you won’t be as good at it either.
Here are a few tips for easily incorporating writing into your day.
Put Writing on Your List
Even though I know I’m supposed to be writing every day, I still put it on my to-do list. I don’t know why writing things on lists makes them more likely to happen, but it really works.
Ritualize Your Writing Time
I had a teacher in graduate school recommend making your writing time a sort of ritual that you do every day. By making it a ritual, she meant to set up your writing time, in the same way, each time, not only to make it a habit but also to successfully transition yourself into it. For example, turn on your favourite music, fix yourself a cup of tea or coffee, light the candle, and then sit down at your desk to write. And then blow the candle out when you’re done.
Give Yourself an Assignment
Thinking about what to write when you sit down at your computer can eat away time. So at the end of every writing session, when you’re still in that creative flow, take a minute to give yourself an assignment for what to write the next time. Then when you open up that draft on your computer, you’ll know exactly what you’re supposed to be writing.
Writers write, even though that can be one of the hardest things to make time to do. Successes like getting your book done require doing whatever it takes to make sure you write. And the more you write, the easier it will be.