Getting Back Into the Swing of Things
I’ll tell you a secret: I got burned out on creative writing about seven years ago.
I have loved creative writing ever since I could physically write words on paper–even before then, actually.
Recently I’ve been feeling the push and the motivation to write again. In all honesty I’m not completely sure where this came from…I just started imagining my future and remembered how I used to dream of being a writer. And then the itch to write again started to trickle into my mind and my hands.
I found the fraction of a manuscript I managed to crank out two years ago for NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month, for all you writing newbies out there) and started out slow, with editing. That was all I did for the first couple days. I read back through, at first not even with any intention of working anymore on it. At that point I was just curious what words had spilled out of my heart in November of 2015.
But then I realized, I loved this story. I wanted to know how it ended.
And that meant I had to keep going with it.
So I did.
And ever since then I have been absolutely obsessed with the feeling of putting words on pages, of creating something that sounds nice and flows well and tells a story that no one else has ever told before.
I love the secrecy of it all.
No one has to know this story until I am ready for them to. For now, it is all mine. The characters are mine, the plotline is mine, and the wording is mine. I can manipulate it however I choose.
Then, someday when I am ready for someone else to know this thing I have created, I can send it out into the world.
But for now it’s all simple and quiet. I can write with no consequences; I can not write with no consequences. There is no pressure at all. That changes once you are published, but until then, it’s all up to you.
And I love that.
Finding a Routine that Works
Along with this rekindled love came the awareness that I am not a naturally organized person. I adore structure, but my life has absolutely zero structure or organization unless I am very intentional about it. My writing routine is the same way. Here’s a glimpse into how I make myself stay organized.
Step one is planning out my week. I use an actual planner–the kind that has a monthly view and a weekly view.
The weekly view is the most important part, as this is where I write down my goals for each day. I try to stay realistic about what I can accomplish each day. For instance, on Wednesdays I work about twelve hours, and sometimes I just really need to sleep in and so usually only 0-1 things get done. Other days, though (Fridays!) I have almost unlimited time.
At first I thought that working like this was going to make me feel stifled. After all, wasn’t my writing freedom (from deadlines, expectations from publishers, expectations from readers, etc.) what I loved about the whole thing?
But this step, I have found, is actually crucial. Because a secret that I usually keep from even myself is that I thrive on organization, on planners, on self-set deadlines. I thrive on doing a little every day.
It’s simple: I just do what I plan to do. Some days slip by without anything getting done at all, and that’s okay. That’s where grace comes in.
Grace is important. Especially when it comes to extending it to yourself.
If you’re curious how I manage to actually get step two done, scroll down to “My Writing Process.”
I write what I actually did each day on the monthly view page. This helps me go back and compare my daily goals with my actual accomplishments, and that helps me shape my future goals. It’s also sort of a reward in and of itself. It feels good to write down a list of accomplishments for the day.
Try tailoring your routine to your personality. Do you write best whenever inspiration strikes? Do you, like me, need to force yourself into some semblance of discipline? Do you write best in the morning or at night? Or maybe when the kids are at school? Or driving down the road while you’re eating soup?
My Writing Routine
Today I’m going to tell you something that I have never shared before: how I actually write.
I write when I’m the most productive.
This means I sit down in front of my laptop in the morning, while I’m drinking my coffee, because this is when I am the most alert and motivated. Something about a new day and some caffeine really gets my imagination going.
Did I mention that I really need coffee?
For some reason having a mug of coffee to sip as I type is what gets my brain into writing/working mode. If it’s later in the day, herbal tea will do. I just really need something warm and comforting. Maybe it makes me feel like a real, stereotypical writer. I don’t know.
I get comfortable.
As much as I can, I go to my favorite coffee shop. It has an absolutely incredible set up in the back of the shop for people working by themselves, and I go there whenever I can afford it. If I know I’ve been going too much, I find a comfortable place at home. DON’T TRY TO WRITE IN YOUR BED, THOUGH. This WILL make you sleepy.
I find inspiration.
Sometimes I click over to a blog post someone has made about the craft of writing and that will inspire me. Sometimes it’s a random snippet of a conversation I heard earlier, or a news story. Maybe this step is just a form of procrastination, but at least it’s educational, right?
I do the part that I’m most excited about first.
Today is Tuesday, November 28th, and if you’ll take a glance up at the picture of my planner above, I have four tasks written down for today. I’m tackling the first, drafting a post, because I really wanted to write this post. I’ve noticed that if I try to do something I’m not as excited about first, I usually lose my excitement that I originally had and then I stop having fun altogether. It just becomes another obligation. My writing is generally better, and I am a happier person, if I check things off my list when I actually want to do them. Of course, some days you’ve just gotta get things over with, but usually I can afford to work this way.
I take breaks.
Or, at least, I know I should. I’ve heard that the 15-5 ratio is ideal: 15 minutes of work, 5 minute break. Over and over and over.
I just start writing.
I don’t always feel like it, and neither will you. But I crank out at least ten minutes every day. There are days where I tell myself I’ll do ten minutes, and then I find myself still writing two hours later and I still don’t want to stop. It’s sort of like that old adage, “Put on your workout clothes and drive to the gym, and then decide whether or not you’ll work out today.”
Are You a Writer?
Tell me about your latest project in the comments! I love reading other people’s blogs and/or a little about their books! I would also love to hear about your writing process. It’s fodder for #4 up there. 🙂
Until next time,