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The Writing Routine

Updated: Feb 17

To do List: 09/02/24

-Wake up

-Have breakfast

-Compose poem in the shower

-Forget poem as I’m doing my teeth

-Go to work

-Think about writing an epic on my lunch break

-Come home

-Write a shopping list

-Go to bed.


Getting into a writing routine is much easier said than done, but it can be rewarding if you find one that suits you.


First of all, it’s good to consider why you want a writing routine. If your aim is to write more consistently without a specific project in mind, then you might choose to be less strict on how much time to write for, with how often you’re writing being a more important factor. This could also be beneficial if your work tends to be short. For me, even ten minutes of writing whatever is in my head at the time can be the start of a budding short poem, even if there’s a lot of work to be done on it still. 


If your aim is consistency, then it’s important to remember that short bursts of writing aren’t necessarily going to bring forth a masterpiece. You might start something new every time you write, or you might choose to go back and work on something you’ve already started. Editing is an important and sometimes forgotten step in the writing process.


Writing little and often can be a simple way to avoid the act of writing becoming too big or daunting a task. I find if I haven’t written in a while, it becomes more and more difficult to come back to it. Even doing something small can renew my confidence and my will to come back and write more.


However, short bursts can only get you so far. If you have a specific project in mind, like a novel or a poetry collection, then you might benefit better from more prolonged sessions of writing. You might choose to set aside a free afternoon you have in the week, or maybe an hour every few days. The most obvious writing routine would be to write every single day, but if this seems daunting, then don’t jump in at the deep end. There’s no point in putting yourself off writing before you even start.



If you want to build up more stamina (and have the time to), you might start with five minutes of dedicated writing time that you increase each day you write. Other timed techniques include the Pomodoro method, a series of concentrated writing periods split up by timed breaks. This typically consists of 20-25 minutes of writing, followed by a 5-minute break. This is then repeated three times or more. Lastly, comes a 30-minute break, after which you can start it all again. This can be modified however you wish. I personally find this useful for splitting up tasks and doing larger sessions of writing, whilst still implementing breaks.


If (like me) you become consumed by your writing and forget to stay hydrated, go to the toilet, or un-hunch your back, you might find it useful to set a timer as a well-being check. The idea is that upon hearing it you check if your body needs anything. This could be time for a loo break or it could be time for a cup of tea. It could be the alarm simply annoys you and you turn it off immediately. On the plus side, if you’re writing something particularly dull, this could also wake you up a bit. 


If a timed approach isn’t for you, you might benefit from setting goals for what you want to do that week/day/month. This could be to write one poem, to get to a certain point in your novel or to brainstorm ideas for what you want to write. The idea is you give yourself an arbitrary deadline to do this by. This approach may result in a less consistent routine, but if you find you thrive better with a rapidly approaching deadline, then it might work for you. 


I personally quite enjoy having a list, mainly for the satisfaction of ticking something off it, but also as a visual representation of what I want to do that day. It can feel more orderly than just keeping it in my head. When I can set aside a writing day, I also find it useful to set ‘hard goals’ (ones I definitely want to get done) and ‘soft goals.’ For me, a ‘soft goal’ is something I do only if I’ve got everything else done, and only if I’m still in the mood to write. I also find it useful to have a smaller project, or backup writing prompt or exercise for if I need space from the actual project I’m working on. I find my brain is still working on my main project in the background, so by the time I come back to it, it has miraculously become easier to write it.



YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WRITE INDOORS. Please go outside and stop perpetuating the myth that all writers are hermits. Find nice cafes, parks, and libraries to write in, and find real-world prompts and inspiration. If I’m writing in the ‘Tiled Hall Cafe,’ (part of the Leeds Central Library, and art gallery) I like to use the paintings as prompts when I need to stretch my legs. There is no need to suffer for your art, so stop confining yourself to the same spot on the couch you always cram yourself into. 


Whatever kind of writing routine you have, it’s yours, so if you set a goal or a place you want to go to, and you don’t think you’ll get there that day, then move the goalpost to something more achievable. The whole point of a writing routine is that it makes time for writing amidst the rest of your busy life. So if all it is is five minutes of your day, then that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The aim of a writing routine is to keep writing in whatever way suits you. 


The other thing to remember is you will mess up your routine. You’ll miss a day. You’ll miss a week. You’ll get ill and not write for a month or go on holiday and not touch your notebook at all. That’s okay. Every writer has done that. 

And then


eventually… 


maybe after a long


long

time,



You’ll write again.


 

Alex Callaghan is a poet from Leeds. You can find them on Instagram at @poetry_ditties or on Twitter as @ABCallaghan2

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