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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Do Writers Need Routines?

I am a naturally organised person, an obsessive compulsive personality at that. So it comes as no surprise when I say I place routine high on my agenda. Although a free spirit with a tendency to do things spontaneously, when it comes to my working life I am as rigid as a corpse.

For me having a daily routine increases my brain power and helps provide focus. Having routine helps me manage my time keeping skills more efficiently because I know how long things take and I'm able to plan my life accordingly. I relish having structure to my day because I find the more I do the more I want to do. I find that I spend more time working and less time procrastinating, thus increasing my self discipline and motivational skills.

When I composed my second book I typed twice as many words in half the time. And I have put this down to stepping up my routine, thus becoming more organised.

However, I do realise there are many writers out there who just write when they feel like it or when the inspiration strikes them. Their creativity can be stronger because they only write when they have vivid ideas. And because they don't write everyday they can often write for much longer in their creative bursts. Often when I write I can only manage 500 to 700 words. A writer who only writes a couple of times a week may write several thousand words.

So, what kind of writer are you? Are you organised like me or do you prefer to write only when you feel like it?


  1. I would like to keep a strict routine but have found this difficult due to health issues over the last few years. Prior to that I was working fulltime and long hours to boot so things got written whenever they got written. I do stick to a schedule as best I can. I aim for three hours in the morning, four in the afternoon and one after tea and that’s seven days a week. I’ve started to include a half hour walk most mornings if it’s not chucking it down which happens less often than people might imagine although we have gone through a rainy patch recently. Mornings I devote to reading and commenting on blogs, Facebook, answering e-mails and basic grunt work, submissions, that kind of thing; after lunch I do all my creative writing and read and after tea whatever I find myself in the mood for but by then I’m winding down. This evening I’m catching up on commenting. I have never been very good at planning my novel writing; it comes in clumps and basically everything else gets pushed to the side to accommodate it. The same with the poems. They, more than anything, else some when they will.

    There is no right way to do this writing malarkey. The worst thing you can do is compare yourself to some other writer. The hardest thing is finding out what’s natural for you. That usually comes through trial and error, mimicking others, seeing what’s a good fit and rejecting what’s not and gradually building up your own way.

  2. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for commenting. You sound like you're a very busy person.
    I totally agree with your last paragraph, it is all about experimentation. That's what my last year has been all about anyway - that and writing my next book.

  3. I advise any new or emerging writers to explore possible habits and routines. I certainly utilize them. There are authors who can work on the go, in any environment and chance at free time. If I recall, recently Cory Doctorow said he wrote that way, and he's made a fine career from that process.

  4. Jim, I completely agree with your comment, "The hardest thing is finding out what’s natural for you. That usually comes through trial and error, mimicking others, seeing what’s a good fit and rejecting what’s not and gradually building up your own way." I found what's natural can change over time as well.

    LK, obviously it depends on the person. The important thing is a writer write. I do both routine and free writing. In the morning, before work, I routinely work on my novel and in the afternoon, after I get home from work, I'll write something else, whatever I want. It might be a temporary project I'm passionate about at the time or something that has a deadline, like my weekly blog posts. It's a good system, because when my novel, which is hard work, isn’t satisfying I can use the afternoon writing to lift my spirits. I'll also write when I'm at work on my breaks or whenever a thought pops into my head I'll jot something down. It's really a 24/7 thing for me. I have trouble turning it off.

  5. John,

    That's some good advice indeed; it's all about trial and error.


    Thanks for sharing with us your routine. You sound a very busy person but if you're committed to writing then it has to be done.