My point of view, Writer's life, Writing

Level Thinking: A Writing Routine

For some reason, writers are fascinated with other writers’ routines. How do you do it, they ask? As if there were some magic, some ju-ju in following exact steps. I hate to break this to you, but if there is magic most mornings, I have trouble finding it.

For what’s it’s worth, here’s my writing routine

0815 hours/Pre-flight check

  • Stumble out of bed. Put on socks, house shoes, and oversized T-shirt. The one this morning says Brat.
  • Fix fruit, nuts, oatmeal, bran, and skim milk for breakfast.
  • Have breakfast with husband.
  • Write in journal.
  • Do a little drawing, watercoloring, or hand sewing.
  • Remember to water the plants.
  • Make pot of tea.

0940 hours/Instrument check

  • Eat toast. Decide if I have to make bread this morning. The answer is yes. Set hot water, honey, milk, and yeast mixture to rise for twenty minutes. Defrost the cooked whole grains.
  • Decide how much longer I can put off doing computer maintenance and backups.
  • Decide how much longer I can put off working on taxes, accounts, and filing.
What I wear to write (yellow glasses and headphones not on yet)

What I wear to write (yellow glasses and headphones not on yet)

1000 hours/Chocks away

  • Put bread ingredients in bread maker.
  • Tell husband I’m running away to mysteryland. Does he need anything before I leave?
  • Put on purple felt hat, which has a Police Line: Do Not Cross tape around headband.
  • Put yellow sunglasses on over regular glasses. Theoretically, this reduces chances of cataracts.
  • Put large headphones over ears. Select music playlist for this morning.
  • Ask myself if anyone would—or should—take a writer seriously who is wearing T-shirt that says Brat, a purple felt hat, large yellow sunglasses, and headphones. Decide I don’t care. It’s my routine and I’m going to make it work.
  • Turn the office sign beside my computer to Open: The Author is In.
  • Leave all programs closed except iTunes and Scrivener.
  • Read the chapter I worked on yesterday.
  • Write.

Noon/safe landing

  • Stop writing.
  • Make a backup copy of what I wrote today.
  • Remove hat, glasses, headphones.
  • Take bread out of bread maker.
  • Look in fridge and see if anything suggests itself for lunch.

Does that look like an idyllic schedule? It does to me. My writing schedule wasn’t always this way. Before I retired, my pre-flight check started at 6:30 AM. My husband and I ate breakfast together less often. Journaling, when I could work it in, was done before bed. There was no drawing or hand-sewing, and very little watercoloring.

On the days that I could work writing around my day job, which was actually a 3 to 11 job, I had to write a minimum of four hours in order to make reasonable progress. Writing four hours a day is tough. I had to make compromises.

You might have noticed some things missing from that schedule. There’s no mail, not e-mail, not voice, not text. One of the compromises I made was to leave those things completely alone until after lunch. Surprisingly enough, the world continued to turn on its axis.

Another thing was appointments. If someone wanted to schedule me for a morning appointment, I learned to say, “I’m sorry, I work at that time. What do you have available in the afternoon?”

Familiar with the phrase TNSTAAFL (pronounced tan-as-fal)? There’s no such thing as a free lunch. There is only so much time available to each of us in which we can write.  If we want to seriously create, we have to give up something. In many cases, if we’re seriously looking for that magic that makes our writing work, we’ll find it in giving up something instead of trying to find the perfect routine.

I love the way that the poet, Mary Oliver, phrased that same sentiment.

To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes, to let it go… to let it go. ~ Mary Oliver, Pulitzer-Prize winning American poet

I hope to see you on Tuesday, April 8, for Write the Novel: the ordinary protagonist. She’s an ordinary Jane; he’s a plain Joe. But extraordinary things are going to happen to them in this book. Learn how to introduce an ordinary protagonist.

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