Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reinvigorating Your Writing Routine

Writing routines are great, but sometimes they also get old and tired, which can affect your writing or desire to write. I know that I personally struggle with monotony. While I do have a goal to write around 1k words each weekday, I seem to get that goal done differently each time.

Now, I'm not criticizing those with solid routines—I often wish I could have one myself—but for those who are burnt out on their own or looking for ways to revitalize it, I have some tips. You know me, I love me some tips.

1. Go Somewhere Else
Many people write in the same place—at their desk, sitting on the couch, at the kitchen counter, at a cafĂ©, etc. When I get really stuck or tired of writing, I often decide to change locales. I hit the library most often because there are very few distractions there and it forces me to focus. But I've also taken a notebook to the park, scribbled madly at soccer practice, and even simply climbed in bed with my laptop.

It's strangely rejuvenating to just be in a different place, seeing different things. The new locale tricks my mind into thinking I'm doing something exciting, even if I'm just revising that one scene for the 50th time.

2. Bring Out The Paper (Or Computer)
If you type up your books on the computer, try whipping out that old paper and pen for a scene or two. If you write everything by hand, pull out that computer and type for a little. Sometimes just the simplest change can get you looking at writing in a fresh way.

I find this especially helpful when I have a bad case of Perfectionitis. Handwriting helps me push forward even when I know it's not perfect. And then typing it into the computer gives you the perfect opportunity to clean it up.

3. Experimental Writing
Sometimes your story goes stale for you and you need to see it in a new light. Lately I've been exploring my books from different angles, like seeing the book from a secondary character's pov, or digging into the back story way more than I'd ever put in the book, or imagining what a prequel would be about, or how the story would go if I was writing about the villain, etc.

I've recently been going through all my side characters and asking them what they think of my MC. That has been interesting—especially since it rarely coincides with what my MC thinks.

4. New Writing
I know we're supposed to have one project that we put our all into, but I must admit I'm a bit of a cheater. Yes, I cheat on my books. I write down new ideas when I get them—I may even start writing them if I get super sick of my current project.

I don't think that's such a bad thing. I think it gives my brain a break, and when I come back to the main project I feel rejuvenated. Usually that time away, even if it's only a few days, helps me see that my main WIP isn't as bad as I thought it was.

5. Changing Up Times
Maybe you always write in the morning, and maybe for the last two days you've stared at the screen instead of making any real progress. If you can manage, it wouldn't hurt to try a different time of the day. Maybe you can go for a nice walk and then write after lunch instead. Maybe that'll clear your head and get the juices flowing.

6. Just Freaking Chill Out
Writing is a hard job because it always feels like you could be doing more. If you write for three hours, you think about how you should have squeezed in one more. If you get four pages written, you wonder if you could have gotten five if you just wrote a little faster. You feel guilty if you DON'T use your free time to write. You feel awful if you take a day just to relax—or a week even. Heck, a month! How horrible, taking off for a whole month...

Stop that. You do not have to feel guilty for the work left undone. There will ALWAYS be work. Everyday, I try to focus only on what I did accomplish, even if it's only two sentences. That is two more sentences than I had the day before.

Writing is part of our lives, but it should not be our whole lives. Do what you can when you can. Enjoy your breaks when you need them. Come back to your writing reinvigorated and ready to go.


  1. Yep, I'm like you, routine is great, but then sometimes it's not.

    #4 is a big one... Because I sometimes have a hard time crossing to the finish line, I feel extra guilty when I switch to a different race! But I think letting yourself break out for a little bit (300 words on a new piece, or 15 minutes of free writing) releases the inner pressure and the sense of deprivation that comes from saying, "No, I MUST work on Project X."

    #6 is pretty vital too. I'm constantly thinking about all the expectations people have (including myself, all the waiting we've already done. But if I tell myself, Hey, this draft is just for ME, it helps remind me to focus on the heart of the story -- not everything that comes after it (critiques, agents, etc.).

    This biz is SO mental! It's great to have reminders (and friends) to help you re-focus.

  2. I can't really write longhand--anything except poetry, at least--but I tend to switch projects quite a bit. If something feels like I'm slogging through it, I assume something's wrong (and I'm always right), so I move it aside and work on something else.

    I have difficulty with number 6--I ALWAYS think I should be doing more (and I can't argue myself out of it, either, even right at this very moment)--but I am not a robot. I can't just write in every single free minute. I can't settle into a project that quickly, and reminding myself of my own limitations helps me chill a bit more.

    Thanks for the reminders! Hopefully I will get to some writing tomorrow...

  3. Those are some pretty good tips. But I first need to develop a routine to write. Right now, I'm just having trouble finding the time to write.

    And staying up constantly is not always a good way to find time to write.

    I need a better way to manage my time.

  4. Great advice, as always. I actually get most of my writing done at work (lucky me!), but when that grows tiresome, I work at home, or head to the local indoor market just around the block from me.

    A change of scenery is often a good thing.

  5. Awesome tips! I always feel guilty for not writing more. Thanks for tip #6 especially!

  6. I like the suggestion to work on other writing when stuck, because that way the creative juices are flowing but in a different area. It gives your mind a chance to mull and process at its own pace.

  7. These are excellent points. Personally, I utilize the changing of locale and alternating from paper to computer. And due to my life schedule I never end up writing during the same time of day. Never. I sometimes wish I could have that regularity.

  8. I find that #4 helps me the most. And changing locales does too. :) I also write on paper sometimes when I'm in meetings at work... :P

  9. I've been doing some of these lately and they really do help. The conference I went to last weekend helped me a lot too.

  10. I wish I could go somewhere else. I always dream of writing for hours at the bookstore or Panera. I'm not sure what my kids are doing in this daydream. I'm pretty rigid with my writing routine lately. I sit in one of two places, always the same time of day, never on paper. Anyway, my favorite advice is your last one! Ha! I guess all of us writers need that.

  11. GAH. Thank you for this, particularly the last point. So true.

    A x

  12. Hats. Don't forget hats.

    Beret or sombrero?
    For fiction,
    what do you wear-o?

  13. This is true, Whirl. Or goggles. Nothing like a pair of swanky steampunk goggles to change your perspective.

  14. Just what I needed right now. Thanks!

  15. #1 and #2 saved my writing world. For whatever reason, I get SO much more done when I think strangers are watching me. Like I can secretly look at them and go "Ha! I'M BEING PRODUCTIVE! In your FACE, coffee shop patrons!"

  16. Different strokes for different folks.

    Although, apart from the fact that I suck at commitment, we seem to operate fairly the same :)

  17. Wow. This is some good advice right hurr!

  18. Thank you for including the "guilt" aspect of writing - I struggle with this on a daily basis! Writing is such a slow process for me and I often get frustrated. But I have to remember that, well, it is what it is. I often wish I had more time. And when I have the time, I wish I could be more productive. I have to learn to do as you suggest and focus on the positive.


  19. Great information!

    And OH, the dreaded number's like a guilty pleasure...I DO feel like a cheater when I swap back and forth... :P

  20. I think I'm at the point where my routine is getting a little worn. My goal was also 1k a day, including weekends, and for the first half of my current W.i.P, it was great. However, now the book is coming to an end and I'm running out of motivation to just sit down and finish! I've taken a few breaks, but find it hard to come back after I haven't written for a few days. Writing everyday seems to keep writer's block away.

  21. Love #6!!! :) It can be sooo easy to get wrapped up in our heads and not chill out!

    I love to go for a walk or run to let my mind clear and to re-energize myself. Alls I need is 15-20minutes and I'm ready to rock!

    Thanks for the reminders!