This article was last updated on October 8, 2019
It seems that everyone wants to be a writer, but very few of us actually achieve it. Why? Well, for many of us, a big stumbling block is figuring out how to work it into the rest of our lives. Even if you know how to plan and execute a book, finding time to focus on your own passion amid all your other responsibilities can feel daunting. As if that’s not trouble enough, the opposite can also be a problem—an abundance of time can often lead to endless procrastination.
Regardless of which end of the spectrum you might fall on, fear not. With just a handful of simple tips, you can build a writing routine that will keep you both happy and productive.
Just like there are infinite ways to write, there are infinite ways to organize your thoughts and time. Before you commit to the book in front of you, take a moment to research and get yourself organized. You wouldn’t expect to be able to climb a mountain without first gearing up, would you?
The first thing to decide is how you’re going to track your goals and progress. Will you be using a Kanban board? A habit tracker? An accountability partner? How you divide your time to be most productive—whether through time boxing, the Pomodoro technique (which is great for word sprints!), or others—is another important consideration. And finally, you’re going to want to get a sense of how you write best. Do you like writing with an outline or without? Do you write better in the morning or in the evening?
Determining at least some of these points upfront can save you time and headache later, but if you realize that something isn’t working for you, don’t sweat it! It’s your routine, which means that you can change it up anytime as you learn more.
If there’s one constant, it’s that life will distract you if you let it. It’s impossible to eliminate all distractions all the time (emergencies happen, after all), but there are a few ways to cut down on the non-essential interruptions.
First, find a quiet place where you can work. It can be anywhere from an office or bedroom with a closed door to a coffee shop where you won’t be disturbed. It can even be the middle of your kitchen with a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Having a “room of one’s own” doesn’t necessarily have to mean a physical room, so long as you signal to those around you that you’re working. Just be sure to make your boundaries clear, so the people around you will respect your space.
But sometimes it’s not even people who are the biggest productivity thieves, or at least… not the ones in the same room as you. Social media distraction is a very real thing. Luckily, there are apps to limit the noise. From site blockers to fullscreen word processors to forest apps that only grow trees if you’re staying off your phone, chances are good there’s an app out there to help keep you on track
Good writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and your routine needs to reflect that. Taking care of both your body and mind will not only help you write better; it’ll make the journey much more enjoyable.
Always remember to stretch, exercise, and hydrate. Get up from your computer every thirty minutes or so, if only to walk around for a moment. And don’t slack on your eating habits—after all, you can eat a salad at your desk just as easily as that bar of chocolate. Trust me, your body will thank you later.
But good self-care isn’t just about being physical. Keeping yourself in a good mental space is also doubly important, especially when writing uses your mind so extensively. Consider giving meditation a try, or even just do some journaling at the beginning or end of your day. (We are writers, after all!)
Whether it’s eight hours a day or thirty minutes twice a week, the key to routine is, well, routine.
I know, that’s easier said than done. Still, even the busiest among us can usually find some time to commit to the things that matter. Write a list of what your average day usually looks like—and be honest about it. It won’t do you any good if you pretend that you go straight from work to making dinner when you’re actually spending that time in front of the TV. Look at what’s taking up your time, and cut anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be there. How much is left? Even if you manage to rescue just 20 minutes a few times every week, that can be enough to complete at least one book a year.
And don’t forget to take time to read and study your craft. Whether it’s brushing up on literary devices, hunting for good metaphor examples, or just reading more books in your genre to see how it’s done, regularly developing your skills now will save you time in the long run.
While this might sound counter to the idea of cutting out distractions, the age-old axiom is true: no man (or woman) is an island. Writing is a solitary activity that can get lonely if you let it, but smart socialization, when worked into a healthy routine, can actually be a boost to your creativity!
From finding loyal teams of beta readers and critique partners to celebrating the friends and family who support you on your journey toward publication, it’s important to surround yourself with a healthy community. Besides, staying in touch doesn’t need to take long. Even checking in with friends during your productive downtime will help you feel more connected and refreshed.
Building a happy, productive writing routine doesn’t need to be scary. In fact, the best routines are built around you. With a little prep work, flexibility, and common sense, you’ll be realizing your dreams in no time.
Jenn Gott is an indie author and a writer with Reedsy, so she basically spends all her time either writing books, or helping people learn how to write books. She firmly believes there is no writing skill you cannot learn with practice and the right guidance. When she’s not working, she enjoys keeping up with the latest superhero movies, reading, and swimming.