How To Maintain a Healthy Writing Routine
Very rarely are writers simply writers. Often they work other jobs to keep themselves afloat alongside their royalties. The select few authors who get to solely be authors, have that privilege from either writing unprecedented and record smashing classics (which you will hopefully one day write), or through the sheer volume of their work, which you may calculably attain. Knowing that work ethic is somewhat primal, it could be disheartening to rifle through Barbara Cartland’s endless Goodreads page, or find out that Brandon Sanderson accidently wrote a couple extra novels during vacation, but your creative spirit can be both optimized and liberated by some sort of routine. It would be silly of me to say, “I have that secret routine right here and here it is”, because it’s an incredibly individualized experience. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up; David Milch laid on the ground and dictated his scripts orally to be transcribed; Leonard Cohen fasted and abused amphetamines to focus his creativity. These are radical examples, but they show that there is no one way to write. What I intend to provide here is a general, sprawled, and customizable guide to formulating a writing routine, which will hopefully help you make the most of your creative spirit.
1.) Finding a writing environment:
As most of us reside in shared living spaces, it could seem wildly lavish to have your own personal study, but it’s clearly something that writers especially value. Much in the same way that a fast-food chain will standardize their locations in order to condition your appetite to expect a specific product when you are inside, the same could be applied to writing. By simply being in an environment that you associate with writing, you can alarm your subconscious and find yourself writing more comfortably. Doing creative writing in the same place you do assignments or scroll through twitter, can muddle up your creative mindset, so having a designated space for exclusively writing could be pivotal. Of course, not everyone can afford their own personal study, but the stimuli needed to trigger your mind to enter “writing mode” doesn’t need to be drastic or even tangible. It could be a matter of laying a certain tablecloth over your work desk, chewing a specific brand and flavor of gum, or perhaps wearing a specific fragrance; whatever alerts your senses that it’s time to write. Personally, I work and loiter in bed, and just move to my work desk whenever I need to do creative writing.
2.) Finding a consistent time:
More so than the tangible place that writers write in, writers value the dedicated time in which they write. By setting up a concrete window of time to write in, their writing efficiency is increased. Supplemented by a specific writing space, nothing is on their mind but what they are writing then and there during that window of time. Haruki Murakami takes things even further. Whenever he’s in writing mode, he standardizes his entire day, with the intent to “mesmerize” himself — dedicating himself entirely to his creative craft. While your schedule is the main variable in picking your writing time, there are often particular reasons that notable writers choose the time they write. Largely, writers tend to work either early in the morning or late at night, for the same reason that nobody is awake, and thus there are no distractions.
Salman Rushdie believes in a “little package of creative energy” that gets “nourished by sleep”, and begins writing the very second he wakes up. On the other hand, H.P. Lovecraft believed that “No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night”. Ultimately, this is entirely dependent on your personal schedule and reactions to your chosen time. I personally laud writing at night, and while you should not be sleep depriving yourself, writing at the end of a tiring day might work out for you. There are articles and research suggesting that we are more creative at night, but the research is often conflicting. An informal explanation as to why creative surges happen at night, is that we are too tired to scrutinize our ideas and work, and thus allow ourselves to write with appreciated abandon.
The aching truth behind maintaining a consistent time is self-discipline— it’s harshly simple. However, if you are able to maintain a constant window of writing time, but then find yourself staring at an empty word document for the duration of it, the following steps will hopefully aid and encourage your writing routine.
3.) Keeping ideas and inspirations tangible:
The best way to avoid an empty word document is to never start with one. Good ideas are rare, they’re fleeting, and they’re often forgotten. By taking note of an idea the very moment it comes to you, and writing down enough of it to let your future self expand on it during your given writing time, you can avoid having nothing to write about. These don’t need to strictly take the form of notes either, taking photos of things that inspire you, or keeping said things with you as you write, can equally aid in the writing process. Furthermore, keeping the books that inspire you nearby while you’re writing can be greatly beneficial. Whenever you feel a dose of writer’s block, you can thumb through whichever book drives you to remind yourself of what’s possible. That book for me is Georges Perec’s Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One's Books, a collection of flamboyant but largely insignificant essays, which perfectly ties into the next piece of advice.
4.) Copy and Blather:
If you don’t have anything to write, you could remedy this by plagiarizing. Despite what we’ve all been told about the consequences to plagiarism, in creative contexts, it can be largely beneficial. In the same way that a visual artist might recreate another artist’s work in order to exercise their own personal style, you may rewrite a piece of pre-existing literature for the sake of exercising your own. You may even directly rewrite an especially inspiring piece unchanged. This could help you get into a creative mindset, and the momentum of simply getting words on the page can help break a writing slump. If you don’t want to do that, then you could write about something mundane for the same reasons. It benefits you, and as insignificant as your initial content may be, it could lead to a piece worth sharing.
This advice has been synthesized from a large collection of revered artists, and if you want to read more about some of their daily routines, you can rifle through the now inactive blog Daily Routines: https://dailyroutines.typepad.com/daily_routines/. In this blog, you can read what legendary author Toni Morrison had to say on the subject:
“Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transaction. It's not being in the light, it's being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense”
Creativity seems so wild and inimical to any sort of conformity that it seems counterintuitive to say it can follow any sort of routine. But with enough personalization, finding that rhythm can be what gives you the edge. I hope this allows you to find some sort of routine to channel that energy, and make something great out of it!