On Writing Routines

Routines provide us humans with safety and security. Routines soothe anxiety. It’s true for babies, and it’s so true for writers.

Here are three cornerstones of my writing routine:

Write first thing in the day. It’s not new advice. Just about every book on the topic speaks of the magic of the early morning hours. But I mean, as soon as you roll out of bed. Before tea or coffee. Before brushing your teeth. Before breakfast. Before anything else. Why? For me, it’s because my brain doesn’t have a chance to object, complain or block my progress. That fuzzy, dreamlike state is the gateway to my creative brain. And, of course, getting the writing done early in the day prevents other life necessities from derailing the writing time. I use the same philosophy when training for a half marathon. Hit the pavement before my brain knows what’s going on.

Start with a short note. Time to talk about warm-ups. The blank page. The pressure of where to begin. The “what-if everything I write is pure crap.” To get going, I write a little short letter. Not just to warm up my writing fingers, but to ask for help from a higher power. No matter your religious or spiritual orientation, I think this routine works. It takes the ego out of the writing and refocuses your intention.

Basically, I write a note that begins like this:

Please help me to stay centered. Help me to let go and allow the words to come through me for the greater good.

Yes, it may sound hokey. I’m not above hokey. I’m just happy that it helps to ground me.

Create a Goal and Accountability. When I was a kid, my dad used to time me while doing my chores. “Let’s see how fast you can pick up all the LEGOs.” I’d race around, giddy, picking up those little bricks in record time. It was fun! It was a game! I do the same thing with writing. I set a goal, say, 1200 words in two hours. Then I text a friend and tell them my goal. They say something like, “Go, Laura.” Then I text them the word count after the two hours. They say something like, “Great!” It works.

What’s your routine?

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