Monday, September 9, 2013

Writing Routines and Rituals

One day last week as I was getting ready to write, I realized without any intentional thought on my part I had somehow in the last month or so developed a routine when I wrote. Prior to the last 6 weeks or so, I would come home from the day job, talk with my mom for a bit, and then sit down at the dining room table with my laptop. I'd write a paragraph or two (or less), get distracted by something or someone who happened to stop by (most of my siblings stop by a couple of days a week to visit with my mom) and before I knew it, my designated writing time was up and it was time to make dinner. If I managed to get 5 pages a week written, I considered it a good week.

Determined to finish the first draft of my current WIP (work in progress) by the middle of October, I knew I had to stop the distractions. I started retreating to my bedroom instead of sitting at the dining room table. I still talk with my mom when I first get home but try to limit it to 30 minutes. She was fine with the new limit but I felt guilty at first. She pointed out we talk at dinner and during clean up and while watching the news so I felt better and that I wasn't neglecting her by spending such a short amount of time with her when I first arrive home.  Now when one of the siblings stops by, they yell hello up the stairs. I yell hello back and continue writing. I also started writing longhand in a spiral notebook while listening to classical music. The words seem to flow better and, on some days, faster than when I typed directly on the laptop. 

Now when I arrive home, I visit with my mom and head upstairs, my cat leading the way. I lay horizontally across the bed with my notebook and Ipod. (I only use one ear bud and leave the door open in case my mom needs me.) The cat jumps in the window and suns herself while I'm writing. Some days the words flow like water, other days like molasses but each day I write at least 5 new pages. 5 pages a day instead of 5 pages a week.

When I mentioned to a fellow writer the difference the change in my routine has caused. She said she found she had better results when she lit a candle before she sat down to write. She felt like the lighting of the candle was a signal to her brain that it was time to write. She has noticed a difference in her output on the days she starts her writing sessions by lighting a candle versus the days she doesn't.

So now I'm curious -- Do you, my fellow writers, have routines or rituals you follow when writing?  Do you notice a difference in what you're able to accomplish when you follow them versus when you don't?


10 comments:

  1. Hi, Katherine. Since I retired from the day job in January, I haven't established a writing routine yet for lots of reasons. I've been tied up moving, building a new house, and self-publishing my fourth book. However, I am making progress on a new general routine, so I know where the writing will fit once things settle down. At least it's progress, and that always feels good. Congrats on your new-found productivity.

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  2. Hi Alison,
    I can't imagine trying to set up a writing routine while trying to move and build a new home. Kudos to you for even being able to have a general routine set up. I'd probably be floundering around running from one thing to another, panicking the entire time.

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  3. Hi Katherine,
    My routine's a bit all over the place, but I do my best writing in the afternoon. if all goes well I can get out 500-1000 words before dinnertime. One thing I always do though is to try to read over the work I've done each day before heading off to bed. Nine times out of ten, that makes fodder for the following day's scenes. It's my biggest routine I suppose.

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  4. Hi Juli,
    I'm a morning person so ideally my best writing time is in the morning. Some days when I get home from work, I really don't want to write, I just want to sit and veg out a bit but doing that doesn't help my writing career move forward so for right now, writing in the late afternoon is best for me. I like the idea of reading over what you've written before going to bed. I may have to try that. Thanks for stopping in.

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  5. Hi Katherine. My writing routine?? What writing routine :( I'm trying to juggling social media and getting the word out about my debut book. My writing really suffers. Reading your changes has inspired me. I like the idea of your friend's lighting a candle to signal the 'start time.' I'm going to have to finding something. Good post!! Barb Bettis

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    1. Hi Barbara,
      Promotion certainly throws any type of writing routine out the window, doesn't it? I'm thinking when the weather gets colder, I might try the lighting of the candle idea too.

      Congrats on the release of your debut novel. Hope you have great sales.

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  6. I guess what I have is a routine, Katherine. I don't have an outside job, so spend my mornings out with the dog, working out in my living room, running errands, doing wash and cleaning one section of the house. I take a lunch break, then hopefully, all of the outside work is done so I can settle at my computer in the dining room.

    I do check email and do a little bit of promo for my published books during this time, but when I open up my file, I read a page or two of what I wrote the day before then start writing. The hardest part for me is when I finish a project and have to start on something new. I'm in that place right now with a new book being released. I'm going through a lot of stops and starts in trying to outline a new book, but I also write short stories for magazines, so I always manage to get some writing done each day. I like to aim for 1000 words.

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    1. Hi Susan,
      I always like to read a page or two of what I wrote the day before too. I think it helps me get back into the story.

      1,000 words a day sounds like a routine to me. :o) Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. I don't have much of a routine right now (Alison's right about retirement and routine)--other than taking weekends off, which has done wonders for my writing, but I really like yours and am glad it's working so well. Also love that candle part--I may really have to do that one!

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    1. Hi Liz,
      I take weekends off too. It gives me a couple of days to think over scenes etc. while I'm running errands on Saturdays. Sundays I try to devote to family time only.

      I'm going to try the candle idea too once it's no longer in the 90's. Thanks for stopping by. :o)

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