We all have routines. We develop them over time. And those routines become habits. We go through the same routine every morning when we get up; we have a cleaning routine. Most of us have routines at work as well. Except for those of us who write for a living.
We don’t punch a time clock and we don’t have tasks assigned to us by bosses. We have clients or editors or publishers with deadlines, but how we meet them is totally up to us. We do have to meet them, however, if we intend to eat. We must be productive, and productivity means routines that become habits. Here are several of them.
Pick Your Prime Time:
You know your body and mind. And you know your most productive times of the day or night. This is the time when you will write and when you will refuse any interruptions. You may find that you have more than one productive time – great. It means that you can choose which of those or both you will use every day. But use at least one of them every day you must.
You may experience off times when you have a particular inspiration – icing on the cake.
Write – Just Write:
This seems pretty simplistic. But there are always periods when writers can’t get any words out. They have their tasks before them and no ideas are coming. When this happens, force yourself to write. Write anything. Write a letter to someone; start writing your autobiography. The important thing is that you keep your routine. As you write, the stress over not having any ideas will dissipate, and those ideas just might come.
Place is A Part of Your Routine:
Where you write is just as important as when you write. It’s a matter of having a physical environment that is comfortable and productive for you. In general, places where others move about are not good; however, a kitchen table during a time when no one else is home or is asleep may be perfect. Some writers have more than one place – a small home office and a coffee shop or library. When you discover your spot(s), this is where you must be during your prime time. There is a psychological factor at play.
Writers Read – A Lot:
Productive writers do not just do research for what they are currently writing. They read all genres of writing – novels, non-fiction works, journal articles, the daily news Every. Single. Day. They store lots of ideas, thoughts, stylistic maneuvers, and factual information in their heads. No one comes away from a James Michener saga without a huge bulk of historical knowledge. No one comes away from the daily news without some interesting information tucked away in their brains.
When content writers say they have no time to read anything other than the research for what they are currently writing, they are saying that they don’t have time to grow in their craft. Time must be set aside every day to read – stuff that is not connected to current writing projects.
Shut Out The World:
This is very relative. We have different learning styles – we figured that out in school. We also have different “working” styles. Some people have to have absolute silence; some have to have the temperature warmer; some have to eat while they work; some have to have some type of background noise. All of these things are easily doable.
What may not be so easily doable is that phone, those emails, and social media. Productive writers really do disconnect from all of these things if they really want to crank out their pieces and meet deadlines.
Productive Writers Reward Themselves:
If you have ever potty-trained a kid, you understand this concept. When they use the potty instead of the diaper, they get a high-five and a reward. Productive writers are just grown-up kids in this regard. The paycheck is a reward that is “down the road.” They set up intermediate, usually daily, rewards for themselves as they write. No one will give you a high-five, but you can set up a reward system for yourself. Sit down, crank out that article, post, or chapter, and then have the reward that you promised yourself – that pizza you will order, that cake and ice cream in the frig, that TV show you recorded, that trip to the store for that sale item you have been coveting. We all need rewards.
Productive Writers Push Through The Distasteful:
O.K. So you don’t always get to choose your topics. You have clients who need posts or articles on topics you really don’t like. Every employee of every company has tasks they don’t like too. If you are going to make it in this industry, you have to accept what you are given and push through it. Do the research, learn what you must, and use your creative skills to write the very best piece you can write.
Productive Writers Don’t Ever Really Leave Their Work At Home:
Most writers carry with them a notepad or an app on their phones. They know that ideas and inspiration can come from the least likely places. They are aware of their surrounding all the time and make notes to themselves.
Productive Writers Often Multi-Task:
If a writer is working on a novel or a screenplay, this is obviously his/her total focus. But, for freelance writers, this is not the case. We have multiple projects at one time. This can actually be a big plus. When we get stalled, we can switch over to another piece, work on it for a while and then return. When there are multiple tasks, treat them each as a respite from the others. Switching back and forth is often a great aspect of being more productive.
Routines and habits are personal. We have them in every aspect of our lives, and they help us stay grounded and focused. These are habits that productive writers have shared with their communities. You may have more. The point is this: every writer has to figure out those routines that work for him/her. Here’s to you finding yours.