Once in a while I'm being asked about my routine, my schedule, my daily tasks or to-do's or however you want to call those pesky little things that are supposed to propel your writing forward. To answer you and to attempt to root you in the same belief, here goes: WITHOUT ROUTINE I'M NOTHING. For the longest time I was ashamed of being such a routine-freak and was trying to hide this fact from people. I would admire folks who said the stroke of genius hit them in the kitchen, they dropped everything and wrote a masterpiece in a flash. Not me. I have to lock myself in my room every day to produce anything at all. But, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this fascinating Haruki Murakami interview, and realized that he's the same way as I am! So I stopped being afraid and started to believe that it's the only way to succeed.
Maintain a rigid schedule. There are endless interruptions every day that will attempt to pull you away from writing. I don't know about you, but for me, unless I have specific hours assigned to my writing, I won't do it. Twitter will distract me, or kids, or something else. My schedule is usually very close to this (it varies from day to day within a 30 minute margin):
8-10am - social media; 10am-2pm - writing; 2-3pm - social media; 3-5pm - reading; 5-9pm - home stuff; 9-12am - blogging; 12-7am - SLEEP.
Any time something happens that kicks me out of this routine, it causes me to feel disoriented, which is a weakness in adhering to a schedule, but I also found that schedule creates a certain environment for me to keep my story alive. It has boundaries, it can't escape, it has no other choice but to grow up and mature, like a child that is testing the limits yet feels safe because there are some to begin with. And you heard it before from other writers: turn down the noise, minimize distractions, WRITE. I know not all of us are fortunate to write full time. If you can't, then set 1 hour in the morning or 1 hour in the evening to write. And, before you know it, it will start to flow.
Set specific number goals. I know writers hate math. I hate math. But there is magic in numbers, and I found that watching them grow helps me maintain the pace. I won't let myself out of the room unless I either - write for 4 hours straight OR produce at least 2,000 words (picked this up from Stephen King's On Writing). I keep daily word count and post it for everyone to see on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. People keep asking me, why? Are you trying to make me jealous of your word count? No. That's not why I do it. I do it because other people make me accountable. If I don't post numbers for one day, they will ask me - hey, how about those 2,000 words today? What happened? This makes me move forward. Another plus in sticking to numbers is it takes away anxiety. Suddenly, instead of thinking about writing a whole novel, all you have to do is write 2,000 words a day. That's it. It doesn't sound impossible, and after days and days of doing it, one day you'll find yourself being done!
Create a daily writing ritual. This is your routine, your attempt at capturing that elusive creativity and making it flow when YOU tell it to flow, not waiting for it to appear out of thin air. You might call it a crutch, you might laugh at the idea. Don't. It sets you in the mood. Like putting on exercise clothes makes you more likely to go exercise. For me it's 3 very funny things: playing Words With Friends, drinking coffee, and blasting very loud music. Once I'm done with my social media stuff in the morning, I close down all browser windows, open Pandora and turn it all the way up, cuddle with my phone for a few minutes to play 6 games (yeah, I'm a sucker for words) and then pour myself a huge cup of coffee. This helps me overcome the fear of starting, which sometimes can last up to 30 minutes. Oh, I also have Skype open so that if I feel absolutely awful, my boyfriend can virtually hold my hand and tell me I'm ok. After that, I'm good to start. Make up your own ritual, and you will feel an itch to write every day, because ritual creates comfort.
That's it, the rest is gravy. Well, it isn't, it's still a lot of tears and blood spilled on paper, but it makes it that much easier. Share your approach? What do you do to make your writing flow? Does routine help?