How to Create a Sustainable Writing Routine
Many writers strive to create a writing routine – to write a predetermined number of words every day. Set a goal and a simple calculation will reveal how much you will be able to accomplish over months and years. 500 words a day becomes 180,000 words a year and 22 finished books over a decade. It's simple, but is it really that easy?
Most writers also find out that their writing routine disappears along with their enthusiasm. Hitting your goal consistently day after day is hard. Harder even when you don't have the right environment and tools to do it.
In this post, we'll take a look at how to create a writing routine that is sustainable over the long term.
Maintain an Idea Pool
No writing routine can last for very long without a solid process to generate ideas. One day, the project that you're working on will end. What will you write next?
Whether you're working on a full-length novel or just a blog post, by the time you're finished, you should have a good idea what to write next.
Keep a list of well-thought-out ideas that are ready for drafting so that you can keep the momentum going.
Write to a Schedule
Writing every day is the simplest way to do it, but it may not be for everyone. There's no need to force it. However, you should have a set writing schedule that you stick to.
Ambiguity is dangerous because it may cause you to keep postponing your writing sessions until you run out of time. Having a set schedule also helps to get used to it and create a habit.
Writing 'a 1,000 words every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday' is easier than writing '3,000 words every week.'
See how the scheduling tools in Writing Analytics can help you stay on top of your writing projects.
Lower Your Expectations
Many people understand a writing routine strictly as a set number of words every day. However, this is the wrong approach. Setting an ambitious daily goal may work initially, but it will be hard to maintain it for months and years to come.
When you become unable to keep hitting the same goal, you'll be beating yourself up even though you might be making good progress. That makes no sense!
Setting a low daily minimum and leaving the goal open gives you some breathing space. Want to write about 500 words per day? Set your minimum to 50 or 100 words. That's what you'll do on the bad days. When you have the time or extra energy, you can always write more.
Don't skip days – that usually marks the beginning of the end. But allow yourself to fall short. Nobody's perfect.
For most people, writing is a solitary pursuit. When you skip a day or abandon a project altogether, nobody will know. A little accountability goes a long way.
If you tend to drop off after a while, sharing your goals with a friend or accountability partner may be the way to go. External accountability is a powerful tool, and many writers take advantage of that.
The idea that you're going to set up a writing routine and keep it for the rest of your life is a myth. A sustainable writing routine requires constant adjustment.
There's nothing wrong with changing your routine – scaling it up if you can or down if you must.
Don't be afraid of change. Instead, be there when it happens so that you can quickly react and adapt.
Life isn't static, and your writing habit won't be either.
Your commute may increase when you change jobs, and you won't be able to write in the morning anymore. Moving house, buying a new car, sorting out a leak in the bathroom – all these things happen, and they will affect how much you can write.
Be flexible and adjust your word count to a realistic number when going through a difficult time so that you can keep the momentum going.
Is it possible to create a writing routine and maintain it for years and even decades? Absolutely.
However, that routine will be a lot more fluid than most people expect.