Keeping a routine
Keeping a writing routine is hard. On the face of it, it’s easy – decide you want to do something and then do it. Then do it again, then again, then again. But in practice, it’s something quite different.
I had begun to get used to my routine. What i try to do is write on the train on my way home, just as in the grand plan I had when I started this blog. My other writing time would be early Saturday morning.
Although I managed to get up regularly every Saturday and sit in front of my computer, the writing part would often come slow or not at all. As I have mentioned before, I would often end up fiddling with the website, or checking my emails and Twitter. Although that was my greatest opportunity of the week for getting my writing done, it was actually my train writing that was becoming most productive. I suspect it was because this was a more regular event anyway, and I was much more inclined to work on my writing when I was fully awake! But whatever the reason, I was finding it easier and easier to slip into a writing frame of mind every work day. I had got to the stage when 80% of the time I could simply find a seat (and not be too picky about it either), open my laptop, and just go at it. No pondering. No time wasting.
Then something happened. I had a week off work. Great, you may think, that’s more opportunity for writing, you can get more done! Well, yes it is. But no I didn’t. My routine was centered around my journey home from work. Without that time to myself and the “mental hook” I’d programmed my brain to hang it’s writing hat on, I was doomed.
What’s worse, since I’ve been back at work I seem to have taken several steps back in terms of the effectiveness of my routine. Now I’m back to pondering, putting off, or just not doing. I have to start all over again!
I’m sure there are lessons to be had here. Here are what I think are correct assumptions to be made:
- Routines do work – I was getting better at writing in my allotted time.
- Don’t break them unless you really have to. Taking a holiday from work should not have meant taking a holiday from writing!
- It’s good to have a bit of variety in your routine as long as you’re disciplined. I’ll use an example to explain. Part of my writing routine is supposed to include writing on a Saturday morning. At home, for two hours, rather than on the train for one hour or less. If I stuck to that i would have got more writing done during my holiday (or when trains are cancelled and I have to write at home). But I have not been disciplined enough with that part of my routine, so that particular bit of brain programming was not available to me.
These are the rules as they appear to me, but some people will disagree with some if them. For example, a lot of people advocate having one place, and one place only, where they write. That’s too difficult for me though I’m afraid. I’m out if the house from 8 until 8 most days, so the train is appropriate (though hardly ideal), but not enough.
Still others might take that rule further and abolish a set routine altogether. The idea here is that if you learn to write whenever the opportunity arises rather than boxing yourself into a set routine, you are in a better position to keep on writing when the unexpected happens. I don’t really buy that either. I see the reasoning but I’m sure that would lead to no writing at all for Matt. Plus I think that habit can be a very powerful tool when used for good! And I need all the help I can get!
And right now I need your opinions! What do you think about keeping a writing routine? Is it a help or hindrance? Do you have one that works for you, and what is it? What’s the weirdest writing routine you’ve heard of?