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August 21, 2013 / Angela Sylvia

Writing Problems: Keeping a Routine

A great thing about working in a library is how sometimes a book just pops out at you, one you might have never known about before but now just looks so darn interesting. The latest for me is Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, a collection of descriptions of what different artists/writers/composers/what-have-you do/did as their routine while they created. come of it makes me feel like a lazy butt — really, Haruki Murakami, up at 4:30 am? — but overall it’s interesting, inspiring, and at times reaffirming. And, it’s made me think about what my routine is, and has been.

Morning Coffee

Morning coffee, an important part of my routine.

In high school, when I started to write more regularly, I had a routine of writing at night. I shared a bedroom, and otherwise lived in a small house (7 not-so-big rooms, including the 1 bathroom, and I’m counting the portion of a shed we shoved a TV into) but when everyone went to sleep, it was like I had space to myself. Since I apparently type like I hate the keyboard, clacking so loud I’d keep my brother up, I began my habit of writing everything longhand here. I’d sit up for maybe an hour, burrowed in the couch, writing by the side lamp into a spiral bound notebook, fanfiction or terrible poetry or stories about dragons, whatever.

This continued when I still lived at home, but when I moved in with my then boyfriend/now husband, that had to change. While it’s not set in stone, nighttime has become our together time, where we marathon TV shows or at least sit side-by-side while I read and he watches sports. I had a different lifestyle, so my writing routine had to morph with it. Exactly what I do everyday is constantly shifting (I had a period where I read a book each morning before ever putting pen to paper). And when a piece of my life changes, like switching jobs or getting our dog, the routine changes with it. For right now, this is what I do.

  • I try to wake up with my husband, whether or not I’m going to my day job that day. Unless I set my own separate alarm, I don’t always succeed, but I try. When I do get up I wake up the dog (she’s the most reluctant to roll out of bed out of all of us) and make coffee.
  • I sit at the desk with my coffee, and a dog on my lap. I fail to not look at Facebook or Gmail, and poke through my favorite webcomics. Eventually I get started on something. I’ve I’m writing a rough draft of a story, I usually do that, though if reviews are piling up and I know I won’t have time later I’ll work on one of those. If I’m not doing either of those things, I work on edits.
  • Pat goes to work. I do some more writing (or editing, critiquing, social media work, depending on what’s needed or pulling at me) until the dog gets sick of it. Then I take her for a walk, usually around 8:00. This takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and serves to clear my head as well as come the dog down.
  • The rest assumes my day job shift doesn’t start until the afternoon. I”ll again pick one of my projects to work on (I’ll work on several things within one day) but scattered throughout I’ll do some chores, the gross ones that bother me like laundry or dishes. The rest I’ll save. If I have time, and feel I have the capacity for it, I’ll write more of my story’s rough draft, though I likely won’t get more than 2 or 3 handwritten pages done in a day. I try to focus on writing something until lunch.
  • After lunch, sitting down and writing is like pulling teeth. Sometimes writing gets done, if I really push myself, which I do if I wasted too much time in the morning and don’t feel like I did enough, or if I’m feeling really inspired with a story or new idea. But usually I read, or get something completed to review the next day, maybe critique work for my writing group. This is when I do most of my chores. I walk the dog again, usually for a shorter walk, depending on the weather.

This gets truncated when I work in the morning and all day, and things shift a little bit when I go to yoga on Wednesdays. On weekends I usually only get a significant amount of work done when I wake up well before my husband, not because he’s a distraction but because I don’t want this work getting in the way of spending time with him. Usually, though, this is what happens, both naturally and through my forcing it. There are some things I want to improve on — I want to wake up earlier, I want to write more pages per day — and sometimes I feel like I don’t produce enough. But collectively, I’m doing OK with this.

Do you have a routine for your creative projects, whatever they might be? Do you struggle with it?

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