3.1 ROUTINE AND HABIT
This module will be a little less technical and more about suggestions and ideas and ways to help make writing an integral, habitual way of life and to look at how to overcome those traditional sticky spots when writing a first draft.
Firstly, we’ll have a look at writing habits, what they look like for some and how to develop your own, which may be similar or very different!
Then, we’ll explore the common tricky mid-point of the first draft and ways to help you overcome those issues, whether they are related to the character or your own motivation or ideas. We’ll refer a little to story structure and to character arcs, as well as discussing ways to get past the mid-point when it’s stopping you from just getting that draft done!
Developing a writing habits
Before we start, I guess it’s worth pointing out the obvious. Writing habits look very different for every individual writer. What works for one, won’t work for another and each of us must adapt all of this to being specific to our own needs and situations.
For example, I remember reading the Stephen King book, On Writing, and him saying he writers for 2 hours (?) every morning, then has a walk and reads in the afternoon. I remember an article by Louise O’Neill and she was similar, waking up, staying in her pyjamas and getting her writing done before she even checked emails etc.
Kate Brauning, who I work with on the Breakthrough writers programme, is a huge fan of doing it first thing, too. She says, ‘the first thing you do every day is the thing that always gets done’. In the same vain, there’s also morning pages, which many of my writing friends are fans of – they wake very early and write anything – literally whatever they want to, regardless of content or subject.
The point being, that they all have routines which they manufacture to facilitate morning writing, but that’s not always possible for all of us. Some people start work early each day, some have young kids who wake you at 5am, and some people just don’t have the mindset or energy first up.
And that’s okay, too. I am much more of a night owl when it comes to writing, doing the bulk of my writing over the last decade after 8pm and sometimes until 2/3am.
Finding a good time is only one small part of it (though an important one – being uninterrupted is just as important), but doing it regularly has great importance still.
Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.Robert Collier
I both love and hate this quote.
I love it for its simplicity, for its honesty and for its wisdom.
I hate it because, despite its simplicity, I am unable to always do it.
We all have days which somehow just don’t go as we plan or expect. We often say, ‘oh I’ll just get some writing done once the kids are in bed.’ Or similar.
And then bedtime comes and there’s a meltdown and demands for a tablet (just 10 minutes, pleeeeeeeease!) or a second bath…and suddenly the night has gone, and you’re exhausted and you KO with a half-finished glass of wine on the couch and wake up at 3am with a dry mouth, a sore head, and crawl up to bed! Which, in turn, makes an early start the next day also impossible!
We’ve all been there, in that circumstance, or similar.
And so here is my radical, but simple (and not original!) way to help develop this.
Schedule your writing with the same importance as your work, or your time with your family, or your violin lesson, or your session with the PT at the gym. Imagine your work in progress will give you the same look as your boss or PT would, if you just didn’t show without a good excuse.
Treat your writing like you would a job, and maybe one day, it will become just that.
Treat it as a hobby that can be discarded at the first sign of any distraction or obstacle, and I’m afraid, it’s entirely possible it will remain as that thing you always wanted to do, but never got around to.
We are all guilty of moments of saying ‘ah well, there’s always tomorrow’, but it’s the book that’s never started that’s the one that takes longest to complete. Or so the famous phrase goes.
So, we must carve out that time, and timetable it – put it on the fridge next to the doctors’ appointments and bin rotation and school calendars. Make sure not only you can see it, but so can others in your house. Make yourself accountable, not only to yourself, but to as many people as possible.
When I feel my motivation at its lowest, internally, I look to that external accountability to keep me on course with most things in my life. You could do this for your writing, too.
Some of you will be reading this and already have a great routine and writing habit, so I have a task for all of you.
Suggested writing task
Post up, in the writing tasks channel, what your routine looks like. Add the various ways in which you make it a habit – who holds you to account, what time and space do you use, how do you make sure you are not disturbed.