Have an actual routine
In the movies writers always seem to laze about and do whatever they like and then suddenly get inspired late at night and write a book by morning. For me, writing is nothing like that. If I want to be productive I need a schedule and I need to write consistently (and the science backs me up on that).
For that reason, even though I write from home I get up and start at the same time every day, take my breaks at the same time and get back to it at the same time. And when I don’t, I feel guilty, which is an absolutely fantastic way to make sure I do it, after all. What’s more, it also means I have a time when I stop, which prevents me from writing too long and too much, thereby endangering the passion I have for my words.
Don’t write in a vacuum
Writing is communicating and if there is nobody else on the other end you’re going to be less motivated. So, remember to ask for feedback. Writing an essay? Get help from your colleagues or your school mates. Writing for a newspaper or a copywriting company? Ask your editor to comment on what you’re doing right and wrong. What about if you’re blogging? Then turn to your friends, blogging buddies, or your family. Their perspectives might give you new insight, or they might not. But, even then they’ll serve as another reason to keep going.
Don’t have a word count
A daily word count seems like a logical thing to have. It’s easy to measure and it’s a concrete goal. It is, however, highly counterproductive. Why? Because on the good days, when you’re steaming along you’re going to get there really fast, while on the bad days when you’re really struggling it’s going to take hours.
You work only a few hours on the good days and for many on the bad days, while it should be exactly the reverse! If you work longer on the good days and shorter on the bad ones, you’ll get far more done that way and enjoy doing it far more.
You need to recharge
Writing is intense. It requires a lot of energy and if you do it for too long your brain starts to sizzle and the quality of your writing will drop. So make sure to schedule in breaks to avoid it becoming overwhelming, both during the day and the week. First of all, this will make you more productive when you do write. Secondly, if you don’t you’ll build up more and more mental resistance to getting back to work and that will be harder and harder to overcome (and why should you want to spend energy overcoming it when you would rather spend that energy writing?)
Multitasking doesn’t work. Not only are you less productive, but it actually damages the brain. Instead, singletask. For the duration of a task turn off all social media, your email and your telephone and concentrate on the task at hand. When it’s done, or some time has passed (an hour or two) reconnect with the world again. This will make you far more productive and will turn connecting with others from a distraction into a reward.
Writing isn’t just putting words on paper
A lot of writers feel vaguely guilty about the amount of time they don’t write. They forget, however, that writing is also thinking, planning, weighing options and finding inspiration. I myself have somewhere between four to six hours of actual high-quality writing in me. If I try to do more than that for more than one or two days, the quality of my writing takes a nose dive. And I’ve been writing pretty consistently for a while now, which has had the result that I’m now able to write more than before. If you’re just starting out you might find that for you even managing three hours every day is hard.
And remember, people in an office are constantly taking coffee breaks, talking to colleagues and switching up their tasks as well. In fact, 89% of people in offices admit to wasting time every day. So don’t feel bad about writing as much (or as little) as you do.
If you want to write regularly, you need something to write about. For that reason, keep reading. It will both give you material and inspire you. Also, don’t just read what you have to, read what you want to. It should be fun. And don’t just skim or scan either but really read the material in order to remember more.
Sometimes you slip up. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you do. Writing is supposed to be fun. Why else would you do it? After all, it certainly isn’t going to make you rich! So, when you slip up, you can give yourself a hard time, but don’t hold onto that. Let it go. Otherwise writing will quickly turn from something you want to do into something you have to do. And from there the route to resentment and blogging burnout is short indeed.
When it comes to creating your writing routine, where do you struggle the most?
If you’ve been successful at starting a writing routine, we’d love to hear what has worked for you. Please, share in the comments below!
Patrick Cole is an entrepreneur and freelancer. He is also a contributing blogger for several websites. Patrick loves self-education and rock music. Connect with Patrick via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter