Rut or Routine?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my writing routine. More specifically, I’ve been wondering if I actually have a routine at all.

Like most aspiring authors, I spend some of my free time, searching the internet for author websites. I like reading bits and pieces of information about them, like how long they’ve been writing, what they do in their spare time—anything that makes them unique. For me it’s puts a picture (actual or imagined) in my mind of the person they are. I’m always curious to see how these real life people align with the words and characters they put on the pages of books!

Many authors talk about their writing routines. They describe in detail the times, the objects, and the places that best help them write their books. Some, I’ve found are downright superstitious. They can only write at one particular time of day, in one particular chair, with one particular cat resting on their lap, with coffee in one particular mug, etc, etc.

Some are less rigid. They talk about writing all day long in their pajamas. Others mention coffee shops, or music playlists, or writing 888 words per day no matter what. No more. No less.

With all of these descriptions, I conjure in my head images of real writers—real authors. They all have some sort of routine. They have a system. It helps them to be productive. It helps them churn out amazing work…and then I think, if so and so real life published author has a system like that, maybe I need one too!

It comes as no surprise to me that the idea of a writing routine intrigues me. I was a psychology major after all. Moreover, I live in a fairy tale world most of the time, thinking about the way I’d like things to be in my own perfect little world.

Let me give you some examples…

I wanted my high school prom to be magical because Seventeen magazine told me it would be. I wanted to have a trunk to bring my belongings to college because again, Seventeen magazine told me I needed one. I wanted to ride in a carriage on my wedding day because that’s what all princesses do. (Okay maybe only Cinderella, Diana, and Kate but still). I wanted my daughter and son dressed in matching holiday clothes when they were little because well, I don’t know why. I guess I thought all perfect moms paid attention to details like that!

So yeah, I admit, I’ve lived in a fairy tale world most of my life. Real life has softened my views and definition of the whole fairy tale thing a bit over time, but the way my mind works hasn’t changed much at all. I am still fascinated by why other people do what they do, and I have very definite ideas of the way I’d like things to be—in my own personal world.

So what does that have to do with writing routines?

Well, as any writer will agree, getting published is tough. And while we all may know in our realistic minds that the most important requirement in getting that elusive agent or book deal is to write a phenomenal story, we may also think that some of these other things may help us get there faster.

Like writing in one particular reclining chair, with one particular mug of flavored coffee, from 10am-2pm.

But I don’t have a routine like that. My life (probably like many of yours) is way too chaotic. On the other hand, I do know what doesn’t work for me.

I can’t write with music playing. It’s way too distracting. I start singing and remembering where I was the last time I heard the song and I lose my train of thought. It also gives me a headache.

I can’t write in a desk chair. I can read emails or research that way, but I can’t draft or revise in a chair like that. I need to write in a recliner, on my laptop. Or I can write in a recliner type chair with a notebook and pencil. Apparently my mind can’t create unless my body is in a reclined position. Strange. That’s why I was able to write Monday’s blog post on the train. The seats reclined!

I can’t write late at night. It’s like the daytime sucks out all my creative juices. Early morning is best for me, but unless I start at 5am, I have to wait until the kids are off to school and I’ve organized my morning. Usually around 8:30am. If I have a work project, (like most days) then I can’t write until later in the afternoon or after dinner. Not ideal for me, but I make it work.

I can’t write so well in a coffee shop. I’ve tried. I do sit there at a table with my laptop or tablet–but I’m so preoccupied with the idea that I must look like a real writer sitting there writing in a cute coffee shop with my yummy flavored coffee drink that I don’t actually write much. After an hour or so, I end up packing up and writing at home!

In all of this obsessing about my routine, I have determined something. There will always be people who do things differently than I do. And with all the information out there on social media and on the internet, it’s hard not to measure yourself against them. Maybe reading that kind of information may not be the best way to keep yourself focused on the important stuff.

I may not have a writing routine like some other writers (published or not). I may have to write in between car pooling, working, cooking dinner, watching my family’s sporting events, helping with homework, walking or running, and most of all sleeping…but I do have a system.

And here it is: I make writing a priority. I write just about every day. Just like taking care of my family is a priority, so is writing. I feel empty and frustrated if I can’t do it. I feel happy and energized when I do. So whether it’s a 5am spurt for and hour and a half, an after lunch two-hour session, or a before bedtime race to get my words in, I do in fact make writing part of my overall daily routine.

And I do always write in a recliner of some sort. So I guess there’s that! Maybe when Starbucks puts some new chairs in, I may give the old coffee shop another try. Or maybe I’ll get so sick of writing in my own recliner that I’ll try something else. I don’t want to be stuck in a rut after all. I read something somewhere by someone that being stuck in a rut is not good for being creative! But that’s another story… 🙂

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