Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit down every day and write consistently? Wouldn't it be nice to have a time that you knew was your "writing time" where distractions were limited? What about practically guaranteeing that you could write the moment you began? No, this isn't a pipe dream. A writing routine can help you achieve all this and more!
A writing routine is a time that you designate per day to sit down and write. It can involve things such as writing rituals, special decorative items, every tool and resource you need within easy reach, a space that feels inspiring, along with personalized writing strategies and techniques. The purpose is to keep you motivated, writing, and on track with your writing goals.
As writers, we typically get the urge to create a writing routine when we discover that we're not as productive as we should be. Whether this is having the intention to write and then getting distracted, the desire to turn our writing hobby into a job (and being held back because we can't write consistently), or simply because we want to learn how to become better writers, having a writing routine that works for you is not a one-size-fits-all process.
Undoubtedly you've read blog posts before that try to help you build a writing routine. They promise an easy fix, a quick five step process that will guarantee you success. But what if we told you that it just doesn't work that way? Would you give up writing for good? Or would you choose to learn the strategies that are going to make you a successful writer?
If you chose to learn, you're in the right place.
Truth is, there's no "quick fix" when it comes to building a writing routine. It's going to take time, trial and error, and - like everything else when it comes to writing- you're going to have to work for it.
The Good News:
The good news is that building a writing routine is one-thousand percent worth it. You can increase your productivity, hone your writing skills, and the best part is that your routine never goes away once you have it. It only evolves and grows over time as you continue to learn.
Plotter, Pantser, or Both?
Before we dive into our methods, we want you to pause for a moment and figure out whether you're a plotter or a pantser. The reason it matters is that it's going to vary your method for approaching your writing routine. The mistake we see a lot of writers making when trying to build their writing routine is by trying techniques that are ill-matched for the type of writer they are. It leads to discouragement and feelings of disappointment and failure that wind up being harmful to the creative process overall. Unsure of what type you are? Check out the break-down below.
Plotter: If you're unfamiliar, a plotter is a writer with a Type A personality. One who loves to plan, organize, draft, revise, color code- you get the point. Everything is neat, structured, goal-oriented and that includes the way you approach writing. See Method 1.
Pantser: A pantser is the free spirit who loves to be spontaneous, creative, and go-with-the-flow. Often your writing method is one of exploration and discovery and you don't like being restricted by traditional organizational methods. See Method 2.
Combo: Combo writers are the best of both types. Organized, yet exploratory, they are flexible with how they approach their writing. They like tools and setting loose goals and prefer some structure over none. See Method 3.
Now that you know what category you fall in as a writer, it's time to explore the three methods we designed to help you build your writing routine. But first, let's briefly map out what your goals for
Define Your Goals
Regardless of your writing style or the method you're going to use to help establish your routine, it's important to know what you're looking to accomplish by using your writing routine. While creating a routine is one type of goal, the next is to establish what your writing goals are. Without having a clear vision in mind, you risk the chance of abandoning your writing routine in it's infancy because there isn't enough to keep you motivated and focused.
Rather than broadly saying you're going to start a writing routine, focus on one week to start. Defining this time frame will help you gauge your progress and will help you feel like you're moving forward because it's easier to accomplish one week versus a larger or undefined time period. Continue to hold this week-by-week mindset and soon you'll find that multiple weeks have flown by and you now have a habit taking shape.
Exercise: On a piece of paper write down what you'd like to accomplish with your writing in one week. Some examples include: Finish chapter 1, write 2,000 words, sit down to write three days in a row, etc. Make sure that your writing goals are realistic for the amount of time you actually have to devote to your writing. If you're unsure, start with a lower goal and increase if needed. Put this list someplace nearby where you know you'll look at it every day such as on your calendar, within a Google Reminder, or on the wall of your office. Keeping it in close range where you can revisit it will help cement it in your mind and will prompt you to work harder to achieve it. Further increase your chance of success by revisiting it multiple times a day and reading it aloud.
The next step is to declare your goals publicly. Tell your spouse, friends, or your online writing group your goals. Let the world know what you want to accomplish, even if saying it aloud scares you. By doing this you add accountability. That pressure to not lose face in front of those we care about will provide the drive you need when you feel like abandoning your writing routine later on.
Lastly, define what your goal for your writing routine is. How will you measure success? Do you want to follow through for the entire week or will three days suffice? By defining this now, you'll be able to be honest with yourself later about whether or not things need tweaking, what worked and didn't work.
Purpose: Remember, the point of this exercise is to give yourself a reason to start writing. It doesn't matter if you meet your writing goals the first week or even the second. What matters is your consistency of returning to and following through with your new writing routine. If you sat down to write, that's the true win. The progress with your writing goals will come the more committed you become to your writing routine. Recognize that the habit-building process takes time and patience. Celebrate each moment that you succeed in giving yourself the time and space needed. This will keep you coming back for more.
The 3 Methods
While there are three different methods for building a writing routine designed to be paired with the type of writer you are, understand that you aren't limited to such a rigid interpretation. Try each method individually or mix and match the techniques within each to come up with your perfect writing routine.
The Short Version:
Method 1: Plotter
As plotters, it goes without saying that organization and planning are a large part of the writing process. It makes sense that to build a writing routine for someone who is type A, it's going to involve a lot of structure. What's a plan that you didn't plan for, right? So gather all of your best organizational tools and planning methods. Strap in for the long haul, and get ready to write! One of the best ways that a plotter can start building a routine is by mapping out all the factors that go into creating one. Choose the place you'll be writing, what comfort features you need such as blankets and a drink, something to mark the start of your writing session (such as lighting a candle), how you'll keep track of your goal for each session, and the duration of each session. Want even more structure? Map out your session goals with a clearly defined outline that specifies to your heart's desire. Writing sprints are one of the best methods for planners. Most plotters find goal-setting, tracking word counts, and working with an accountability partner motivating-all things we suggest for your writing routine. Once you pick your schedule, remember to add an incentive to keep you going. Challenge yourself to meet a word count you previously thought you couldn't and claim your bragging rights once you crush it. To keep your eye on the prize, make sure you track your progress to see the improvement over the long-term. Nothing is more motivating than to see yourself growing as a writer!
Method 2: Pantser
Pantsers, don't be alarmed. You're probably shifting in your seat wondering what kind of method we're going to recommend for you. But yours is ruled by spontaneity and freedom, not structure and restrictions. It all starts with positive energy. Pick a few activities that you know put you in the mood for writing. This might be free writing, reading an excerpt from your favorite book, eating your favorite food, lighting a candle, or even doing a spontaneous dance routine to an upbeat song. Whatever gets your creativity going is what you should do. Mix and match, nobody said you have to do the same thing each time! Your routine is all about giving yourself options. If you're not the type to stick to a schedule, identifying when you have time to write might help more than designating a specific time. This way you can pick and choose what works best based on your mood. Similarly, you can create a flex routine for your goals and give yourself the freedom to change your plans when you do write. While you should find a method that allows you to record your progress (so you can see it and stay motivated), feel free to turn it into a game. What's a few things you really want currently? Mark rewards for each stage of progress and follow through to keep the fun going. Shift back and forth between self-editing, multiple projects, writing, and rewriting as needed to keep yourself from getting bored. The goal here is steady progress, not life in the fast lane.
Method 3: Combo
If you fall in the in-between zone, you've got the best of both worlds at your fingertips. Depending on how you approach things, you might favor planning in the development stages and free writing during drafting. You may do little planning when it comes to story elements such as character development, but you may still outline your plotline. Or you may prefer to only write when the mood strikes you, but once you get going you binge for hours. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, your approach is to find the right combination of the two approaches above. Like Goldilocks, you'll need to try out different aspects until everything feels just right. Maybe that looks like free writing, eating a piece of chocolate and blaring your favorite writing music every Wednesday night before you sit down to write. Maybe it looks like meditating in the dark before lighting a candle and doing a writing sprint at 2am. A mix of fun and organization is exactly what's called for when you live life as a combo writer. Cultivate a writing routine you love and you can't go wrong.
Regardless of the method you choose, the goal is to create a routine as unique as you are. If it's not something you enjoy, it'll become a discouragement rather than a cherished part of your day. Like self-care, writing is good for your soul and mental health. Nourish it with a routine that feels good for you. When you feel great about sitting down to write, you'll be more productive in your writing. In turn it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you love what you do, you'll do more of it.
As you move through the process of building your new writing routine, remember to give yourself grace. It's not going to happen overnight. While the goal is consistency, it's going to be a goal you work towards, not the norm. At first your excuses may get the better of you. You may feel frustrated when you can't reach a word count, or when you skip another writing session. Keep going. It's not about how many times you don't do things perfectly. It's about how many times you make yourself proud by following through on your new habit. Even if you only get as far as lighting a candle and writing a few sentences, still count it as a victory and come back the next day. Eventually what you'll build is a writing routine that will see you through entire novels.
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