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Routines – Why You Need One to be a Serious Writer

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I have written about routine before – normally it’s because I have fallen out of it! This time, it’s because I’m getting back into a routine, finally, and the advantages are immediately re-revealing themselves to me.

Falling out of a routine

I recently read and shared an article by K. M. Weiland over on Wordplay about routines. For me, the article tried a little too hard to be kind to those people who don’t have a routine. In my opinion, deliberately having no routine is akin to relying on luck, hoping your muse will show up that day.


Image courtesy of Dafne Cholet

There was some suggestion that you come to rely on your routine, and that means that if it’s disrupted, you’re in a pretty bad way. I have to admit that when I fall out of my routine, everything goes out the window.

I may not write for days, and the process of getting back into my routine is slow and tortuous.

Even things like the recent double bank holiday we enjoyed in the UK can be treacherous. Staying at home takes me out of my routine, which is basically built around my train journeys home from work. Without that daily framework it takes a lot more effort to get me in the chair, and there are many more distractions at home than on the train (Ironically then, it is those days where I feel I should have more time for writing that I get less done).

Getting back into a routine

After a long time (months!) without my full routine, I finally feel like I’m getting back into it again. A break from work combined with getting stuck in my story meant I was reluctant to get back into writing. As I first thought, then worked through the problems in my tale my mindset gradually shifted back to a writing routine.

I started writing copious notes around my WIP – eking out details I would need in the backstory; I employed Scrivener to rearrange my scenes in a way that made more sense, and wrote notes about what was missing; I spent my train journeys working out how my backstory impacted on my main story and how I could weave them together.

Then, finally, I was ready to write. And it was hard.

Being without my routine for so long had made my writing muscles sloppy. In that first week of actual writing, I got out half as many words as I was doing before I fell out of my routine. The flow just wasn’t there. I kept pausing to think.

But by the end of the second week, I was more-or-less back in the groove. Far from convincing me that routines are a detriment to writing, it reminded me just how important they are. It simply makes writing easier. It might be the daily practice – simply writing every day oiling the process and making it run more smoothly. Or maybe I’m training my brain to switch to a certain state of mind at certain times of the day (or in certain locations).


Is that grindstone starting to look attractive yet? Image courtesy of Anton Raath

Whatever the process going on in the background, I simply could not work without a routine. Although earlier I suggested my writing drought was a consequence of routine, this is far from conclusive. It is possible that having a routine means you rely on it, and you suffer more when you fall than you would had you not had a routine at all. But I don’t buy it.

For me, I truly believe that my drought gave me a glimpse into a writing life without routine. A life where no writing happens! There is far too much else going on, far too many other things I could be doing, that it’s easy to fill my life without having writing in it at all. That makes it very difficult for my ‘muse’ to get a look in, and far too easy to ignore her.

And without that muse, writing can be a real grind for me. Writing after a relatively short gap (a week, say) is much more difficult than if I had written the previous day. Having established I can’t rely on my muse, a routine is the only way to go to ensure that the work gets done.

Maybe it’s a failure of my imagination, but I cannot see how anyone serious about writing can work without a routine. Maybe there are some writers who haven’t thought about their routine, and have fallen into it naturally, but that’s still a routine.

You can’t bash out something as long as a novel in a flash of inspiration – it takes dedication over months and months. Those without a routine are surely doomed to fail.

What about you? Do you have a routine? I would love to hear peoples’ advice on what to do to get back into a routine quickly, or never fall out of one!

Maybe you think I’m wrong, and a writer without a routine can still be serious about their work and achieve success? Let me know! The comments section is down there.

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