Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
You know the drill.
No questions required.
You have done or seen this many times.
You know what comes next.
You know what to do.
That kind of knowledge creates the ease that comes from having a routine. It makes hard things second nature.
The word "routine" is a French derivative of the word route. A routine helps you know the way to get somewhere or achieve something.
- a customary or regular course of procedure.
- commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity.
- regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
- an unvarying and constantly repeated formula, as of speech or action, repetitious.
- of the nature of, proceeding by, or adhering to routine: routine duties.
Did you know that your mood, resilience, and performance are greatly determined by your daily actions? How you spend your time can affect your entire day. The choices you make when you sit down to write are a big deal.
If you start by procrastinating, by the time you finally do get to work, you're often working with an underlining tension. You know you're behind, so you feel anxious when you should be in the zone! And this anxiousness often makes it more difficult to get into the zone. So you've not only sabotaged yourself, but now you're struggling to get the job done as well.
It can be really difficult to reach your daily word count goals when you first have to overcome obstacles, distractions, and all kinds of random "surprises" that interrupt you from your work. Wouldn't it be best to at least try to set yourself up to succeed?
I'd like to suggest coming up with a work routine. Once you have a routine, if you repeat these actions each time you sit down to write, they should help you get into the zone and be more productive. The routine will train your brain to focus more quickly. It should keep you from getting sidetracked and help to make your work become second nature. A habit.
You might be thrown off by some of the words in the definition above. Words like: unimaginative, repetitious, or rote procedure. I in no way mean to imply that your writing craft should be these things. Not at all. I am suggesting that you create a routine to set yourself up to do your best work.
Charles Duhigg says in his book The Power of Habit, that once you're in a routine, "the brain can almost completely shut down [and you'll] have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else."
That would be creating a wonderful work of fiction.
The goal is to move on autopilot. Remove all distractions, get to your writing space, sit down, and start creating. This will likely involve some trial and error. Some things will work for you, others won't.
Here is what my current routine looks like. I'm still perfecting it. But I think this will be very helpful.
1. (Ahem.) Visit bathroom so I have no reason to get up from the chair once I sit down.
2. Gather my necessaries. (Full water bottle, map from story, any notes I need for the scene, etc.)
3. Put cell phone of vibrate and leave it in the living room where I cannot hear it. (I will get up to walk the house at least once an hour to stretch my legs and arms, so I can peek at the phone then for emergencies.)
4. Remove all snacks and candy from my desk. (Snacking keeps my fingers busy not writing, so I instead choose to bribe myself with food. When I complete my first writing goal, I may have X. Second writing goal? I may have lunch, etc. I sometimes even set the snack on the other side of the room where I can see it. Ex: A Cadbury Creme Egg, glimmering on the distant dining room table, can be a great motivator.)
5. Close the internet--or at least close out of Facebook and email. Turn off that Facebook notification that pops up on my computer even when I'm not on Facebook to tell me someone did something. (Talk about a distraction . . . )
6. Read through my plan for the scene I'm about to write/edit.
7. Walk laps around the inside of my house until I come up with the first sentence I want to write.
8. Sit down and write that first sentence, then keep on going for a thirty-minute word war with myself. The "time race" will help me keep on task (and hopefully also keep me from biting my fingernails, another thing that keeps my fingers busy not writing.)
9. When I finish the word war, I may get up (if I want to) and walk a lap around the house to stretch. But if I'm into the scene, I can go another thirty minutes.
10. Every hour I must get up and walk a lap around the house (and stretch my arms) to keep me healthy. If I'm in the middle of a scene, I'll work on the next line in my head so that when I sit back down, I'm ready to type.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, share in the comments. If not, do you see how one might be helpful?