In the Trenches:  Finding Your Time – A Case for a Writing Routine

For the next few months, the authors Chandler Baker, Virginia Boecker, and Lee Kelly's will take us with them on an inspiring writing journey through the medium of blogs posts. Today, Lee looks at creating your own writing routine. 


My family and friends tease me about “scheduling fun.”  I’ve made 5-page agendas for vacations and itineraries for big family weekends… call me crazy, but I want to make sure we get the good stuff in.  Ironically, when I first started writing, I was very hesitant to approach it in the same way.  I viewed writing as this romantic endeavor, not the stuff of schedules and deadlines.  While this mindset made me feel quite artistic, I was getting very little writing done. 


If you are anything like I was, maybe now’s the time to take stock of your own writing productivity.  If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, ask yourself:  Are you absolutely nailing it, and about to cross that finish line?  Or has it been impossible to find the time to make it happen? 


If you are in this second camp, I’d like to make a case for developing a writing routine.  After I did, I went from touching my work-in-progress a few times a month to writing every day.  Some tips to make it happen:


Study Your Day:  It often feels like there is never enough time to do what we need to do, let alone to write: there are classes, homework, work, child care, friends, chores and… we need to sleep obviously.  But there are pockets in everyone’s day – you just need to be adamant about finding them.  Does it take you over an hour to get ready for class?  Do you have a long commute, or a lunch hour?  Does every day between the hours of 9 and 11 p.m. pass by in a TV haze?  Study what your day looks like.  Be ruthless.  Pick a few open slots, as short as fifteen minutes or as long as two hours.


Find Your Peak Time:  Not all time is created equal.  As I was going through this “finding time” analysis myself, I noticed my fingers would fly across the keyboard before 10 a.m., but that after 10 p.m., I would end up deleting more words than I added.  All writers are different: Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates always write in the morning, while Jack Kerouac worked after midnight.  Think about when you’re naturally sharpest  (Before coffee? After coffee?  In the middle of the day when your wheels are already churning?)


Mark the Time as an Appointment:  Once you figure out the time slot where you’ll be most productive, mark it as an appointment on your calendar.  Give this time the same priority as a university class or a work meeting –you need to show up. 


Stay in the “Chair” with the “Page”:  Then, just like a class or a work meeting, stay present.  Don’t jump out of the chair to throw in laundry or do the dishes – and don’t fall down the black hole of the Internet while your precious writing minutes tick away (for great tips on avoiding distraction, see [Virginia’s post]).  Even if you have nothing to put on the page, stay glued to your chair (or subway car seat, driver’s seat, wherever), and to your blank page (or iPhone screen, or voice recording device, what have you).  It took me a few weeks to make my slot become a habit, but I promise, once you show up day in and day out, your muse will start showing up too. 


As Steven Pressfield says in his The War of Art:  “It's not the writing part that's hard.  What's hard is sitting down to write.”  Find your time.  Find your chair.  Find that the words start adding up.


Question:  When do you write?  Do you have a routine?  Do you want one?  Drop a note in the comments & feel free to continue the conversation all week long by tweeting me @leeykelly!

Lee Kelly is the author of MANHATTAN SAVAGES, coming from Simon & Schuster in Spring 2015.  

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