Write, Rinse, Repeat


6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b When I got up this morning, my calendar reminded me that I owed WEbook a column. Now, I love writing these posts. I get excited with every conversation I start or new comment that appears. But I was miffed. I’ve been struggling to find time to work on my novel lately and the column deadline felt like the latest wrench. The upside was that my frustration inspired the perfect topic: routine. 

In past weeks, I’ve discussed the need to read and the ongoing challenge of keeping your confidence up. Both ideas are far easier to manage if you establish a routine with your writing. That means carving out a regular and consistent amount of time to write. This is easier advice to give than to take, I know. We all have commitments—jobs, families, classes, etc. Nonetheless, I can’t stress the importance of making your writing habitual. It differs for everybody, of course, but if I’m trying to produce something I need to hammer away on it regularly, every day if possible, until I complete a draft. It could be an essay, a short story or a full manuscript. I might write for a couple of hours or the whole day and into the night. If too many days pass when I’m unable to work on something, I lose my handle on it. I forget the larger points I was trying to make, the nuances of certain characters and the small details that I intended to turn into big things later. And I have to go back and painstakingly review what I’ve already written.

I also believe that routine is the handmaiden of inspiration. It can be easy to simply say that one feels blocked or uninspired to write at a particular moment. My feeling is that the best writing moments happen randomly, so it helps to be in your chair and in front of the screen when they arrive. Luckily, for now, I’m able to dedicate large amounts of time to writing. I find if I just wait long enough, if I pick away at something for a while, eventually inspiration arrives. And this happens every day. Sometimes it’s for fifteen minutes and sometimes it lasts for hours, but as long as I’m focused it appears. And that, I think, is a matter of routine. My writing brain knows that I will be in front of the computer almost every day for a set amount of time and (usually) it cooperates.

So what do you do if you’ve settled into a good routine and you’re still not producing? Write something else—an email to an old friend, a personal essay that you might publish, a blog post. It doesn’t matter really, as long as you use your regularly scheduled time to write, to maintain the habit. If it’s just not happening for me, I go for a run to clear my head and then I add an extra half hour onto my writing time.

So, the question is: What is your writing routine and how do you keep yourself true to it?


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and MyTango.com, among others. To learn more about him, visit johnmeils.com.

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  1. Great points. I have found that starting a blog on the same topic as my book helps me stay focused. I've made a commitment to post to the blog daily, and I find "inspiration" for the blog - which then becomes material for the book. Blog = http://moregoodmen.blogspot.com
    I also found your comments about keeping your confidence help to be very helpful!

  2. It amazes me that every time you post, I am dealing with exactly what you are talking about!
    I guess it shouldn't amaze me really. We are all writers that go through the same things.
    Your post about confidence I read at exactly the time I was dealing with a run of rejections. It helped so much to hear your way of keeping your confidence up!
    And now today, to read about routine. I wrote my first novel from beginning to end and never even so much as went back to spell check, much less read or revise because I knew it would take me out of the routine. Since finishing it and riding the revision train, I got out of the routine of the creative writing and am paying dearly paying for it.
    I've started my second novel, but its like any routine you try to start, it takes practice and discipline to keep it going. Don't. Ever. Stop.
    Thanks for the great posts!

  3. My time is sustained with writing. Be it poems, short stories or or the oh so boring (for me!) certain re-writes. Still, when I get entangled with the fact called as 'life', I surrealy drift away from my love, and my desired form of expression; 'writing!'
    What you have written here, advising, or more formally informing about how one should go about making it, rather a habit of sort, to everyday routine. It's hard ...i mean, "easier said than done"! But with some mild influence and lots of inspiration, this habit instigation process becomes far to easy.
    For your post - 'It was much like a needed inspiration. "Thank you!"

  4. Jennifer B. Fields12 May 2010 at 14:51

    Whenever I have a free moment and my house is buzzing with child-sized distractions and husband-sized distractions, I lock myself in the office with "Do not disturb under penalty of death" orders. I give my family a time in which I will emerge and they have learned that I mean business. Now, having established these rules, my family respects that. Believe me, I consider myself fortunate.

  5. My writing time is me time. My me time comes in the wee hours of night...the only time I actually get to myself even if I am a stay at home mom. It seems there is always something to do that snatches me from my lover-that-is-writing. Oftentimes I find myself scribbling notes on napkins, post-its, and the occasional baby wipe (I was a bit desperate at the time) for future reference.
    But when I actually sit myself down in front of that bright screen and feel the brush of keys beneath my fingertips...I'm home.
    I try to do at least an hour a day. Or night. If I miss a day, and sometimes that's more often than I prefer, I try to spend more time writing.
    Even when I have writers block...I'll find something to write about. Be it a poem, a song, or a dream I may have had. Most of the time that breaks the block.


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