I’m trying very hard to establish a writing routine without getting rigid about it.
I heard some advice years ago at a writer’s conference (I think it was from Wendelin Van Draanen, but the memory is hazy): “Some people say they don’t want to get into a rut. I say you do—you want to get yourself into a rut so deep you can’t get out of it.”
Well, I can see that. I can see writing being a learned response like anything else: you sit down at a certain place at a certain time, and your brain says Writing time!
So far I’m not focused like that, but I’m working on it. I work out three days a week, so on those days I sit down to write as soon as I get home. (I go to the gym first thing in the morning, or I’d think of a thousand reasons why I can’t go.) On the days I don’t work out, I write in the morning and do writing-related things—answering emails, setting up speaking engagements, etc.—in the afternoon.
And I’ve become strict about taking one day a week off writing. For various reasons, I settled on Tuesdays. This was difficult yesterday, as on Sunday and Monday I received terrific revision notes on two different manuscripts, and I was itching to get to work on both. But I restrained myself. Instead of leaping in, I read the Science Times—my favorite New York Times supplement—and finished a novel (Code Name Verity—highly recommended). I tried to tweet but left defeated, as usual. I watched some stupid TV. I clicked on links to interesting articles in friends’ Facebook postings that had looked intriguing but that I hadn’t had time to check out before. I went through my notes from the SCBWI-Midsouth conference and requested books at the library that the speakers had mentioned.
All this time, what I had read in the revision notes percolated in my brain. I jotted down some thoughts (my rule is that I can do that as long as I write no more than what can fit on a standard Post-it note). I evaluated ideas, rejecting some, filing others away to think about some more. The result is that I can address the revisions much more efficiently than I would have if I had leaped right in.
So the Tuesday-off idea seems to be working. As I said, I’m not rigid about it—I’m taking a few days off at the end of next week for travel, so next week I’ll be working on Tuesday and taking Thursday and Friday off instead.
Next up: figuring out a daily schedule. Any advice? What works for you? What doesn’t work?