I did a panel, part of the Storycraft Sessions, recently on writing habits, and how to build a routine. It was fun to see what other people do to stay focused on different tasks. While we had a lot of common tasks, habits and tools, there were also new ones.
After pondering it for a day, I realized there was a lot to talk about after, regarding general writing advice that we could adopt which would make the process simpler. How does one build healthy writing habits? A few conclusions come to mind.
No Writing Advice Is Universal
You can’t take every writer’s advice as gospel. What worked for Ray Bradbury or Stephen King will not necessarily work for you. You have to find out what works for your personality, schedule and temperament. More importantly, you need to assess how much energy that you have to put into your next article, short story, or blog entry as it were.
Some writers can get up at five in the morning and work. Others switch on and off. That may not be you. Life happens. Sometimes you need to do home repairs or run a last-minute errand. People will upset you. What matters is what works best for you.
Related to this tangent…
You Don’t Have To Write Every Day
I’ve seen this advice being repeated over and over again. Other writers that have discussed why writing every day is a problem can clarify the situation better than I can. It’s traditional advice, that you need to stay consistent.
Getting the words down can be hard. Making it into a habit allows you to cope on days when the writing does not want to come to you. You may have a hard time getting out of bed, but the compulsion will drive you to type or scribble a few words.
Writing every day does help with getting your writing done. It does, however, have a price; you may find yourself creatively drained over periods of time, especially when balancing other tasks. How do you make that deadline, while folding laundry? What can you accomplish after you go and weed the garden, or handle a last-minute work assignment? Sometimes you can’t always drum up the energy for that short story or to draft that article pitch. There is no shame in that revelation.
Always Be Kind To Yourself
There is no shame in trying and failing with experiments to find out which work best for you. Human minds are different and unique. No one routine will work nicely. Heck, sometimes it’s hard to track what routines do and don’t work. I have a hard time tracking new habits or routines, which is why I use smartphone apps for assistance.
Beating yourself up is not going to make yourself any more or less productive. All it will do is instill a sense of shame. Instead, remind yourself that writers not perfect, and no one builds a routine in a day, or even a week.
You have to find out what works for you. Whether that’s rewarding yourself with some chocolate or going out for a daily walk or vacuuming to get the story done, you need to know what works.
Special thanks to Dianna Gunn for organizing these sessions. They are always fun and insightful. I can’t wait for the next day of Storcraft!