The Idiosyncrasies of a Writer’s Routine

21 Jan

Writers Routine

When I began writing full-time, just over a year ago, my writing routine was simple. I wrote – non-stop, all day every day – sometimes for twelve or fourteen hours straight. For four months the all-consuming story inside me pushed all other tasks and thoughts into a ‘rain check’ file at the back of my mind. I couldn’t think of anything else because my story wouldn’t allow me to – it was determined to force itself out from my conscience and down through the tips of my fingers on to blank sheets of paper.

But you can’t write like that forever.  A year on, although my writing routine is less compressed, I still haven’t found the best workable routine for writing and life. Before I start to write, it takes me about 3 hours of faffing about before I can clear my head and focus properly. My daily life task list must be completed – if I know I have to break for something at 4 pm, I am distracted by that fact until then. I absolutely have to be alone – no distractions, no company, zero noise. And once I start writing, I find it very hard to stop if I’m on a roll.

In a nutshell, it takes me hours to focus and then I find it very difficult to switch off. I often find myself writing furiously at 3 am or even later – developing thoughts and ideas that are swirling around the ether of my writing room. I’m unwilling to step away in case I lose where I’m going, or waste a positive creative flow and squander all the good vibrations. I’m so exhausted by the time I get to bed that my head is foggy in the morning and my new day starts later, and my writing even later. Before long, my days are backwards as I am living and writing solely at night-time – at odds with the rest of society.

I seem to be at the mercy of my idiosyncrasies and the fact that my creativity regularly waxes into something worth writing about in the dead of darkness as the whole world sleeps.

So what is the most functional writer’s routine?  I’ve read that a lot of writer’s work on a ‘day job’ schedule – but how do they stop the flow of words at a certain time of day?  If I’m trying to stick to a sustainable writing routine, how do I control and contain my idiosyncrasies and the timing of those flashing streaks of creative inspiration that often take me into the dead of the night?

What’s the secret?


Image from Life Archives via Feb by Birds

9 Responses to “The Idiosyncrasies of a Writer’s Routine”

  1. Ned's Blog January 21, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    When I first went to work for the newspaper 15 years ago, I did all of my writing at home, at night, and would bring it all on a disc to the office the next day. I did this because 1) I was intimidated by the steady and fast-paced sound of the keyboard tapping coming from the other cubicles around me, and 2) being a short story and novel-type writer at heart meant I needed to sitting brooding in a quiet room with no distractions in order to find my muse. Nowadays, I do all of my writing — humor columns and news stories — in the newsroom, usually while listening AC/DC on my iPod, typing away between phone calls. I learned, as they often say, that you can adapt to anything — and so can your muse 😉

    • What's it All About and Other Stories January 21, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

      Thanks Ned! For the AC/DC bit alone, your story rocks…one of my favourite bands of all time (5 live gigs and counting!!)

      I guess I just need to train myself and my creativity into a rhythm that works – night-owling is just too dysfunctional after a few weeks. With enough practice hopefully I’ll be able to bottle my bright ideas till the morning time!

      Thanks again Ned:)

      • Ned's Blog January 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

        My pleasure — Once you get into a routine, your creative mode will adjust accordingly and explode like “TNT” 😉

  2. Phil January 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    I’m not sure there IS a perfect solution.

    Possibly you need to write when you can write and don’t force it when you can’t.

    Maybe having more than one project on the boil helps – that way you can work on one when the others seem a struggle. I’ve done several blog posts for two different blogs, a book review and short magazine article this evening. It seems that I’m in the mood to type and the words are flowing, so while the well is flowing…

    • What's it All About and Other Stories January 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

      Thanks for the reply Phil! Putting down my writer’s ‘pen’ is my biggest problem,I just can’t seem to bring myself to stop at say 11pm and go to bed, like a normal person!

      Once I get on a roll, I can’t pull myself away – maybe I should scribble down all the words I’m thinking and go to bed, hoping my short term memory will come up trumps in the morning!

      It’s worth a try I suppose 🙂

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann January 22, 2013 at 5:55 am #

    I think you need to leave your desk, having scribbled a “note to self for beginning of next writing session: _________” Leave your desk when you are excited about continuing. That way, you can jump right in where you left off the next day, getting rid of the faffing about for 3 hours. If you continue until you have no fresh thoughts, you have no springboard for the next day.

    Worth a try?

    • What's it All About and Other Stories January 22, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      Jilanne – I think you hit the nail on the head – my faffing about for 3 hours must be a symptom of devouring all my thoughts late at night until they are starved of oxygen. My springboard for creativity, is as a result, deflated the next morning…..

      Scribbling my notes down just before I stop at a reasonable hour should help my memory recall all my thoughts in the morning. And I think what you said about continuing until I have no fresh thoughts is key – as that’s exactly what I am doing – no wonder my mind is foggy in the morning!!

      Thanks for the advice Jilanne, very insightful as always 🙂

  4. Dennis Langley January 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    I agree with Jilanne. I try and stop at a cliff hanger or just before the next action scene starts. That way it’s easier to get back into the flow of the story.

    • What's it All About and Other Stories January 22, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

      Thanks Dennis – I think if I try to scrawl down all the disjointed thoughts for the next scene that are flying around my head, I will 1) be able to sleep and 2) have a decent springboard for the next morning!

      Thanks again 🙂

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