It’s Friday, and as we all know (and by “we” I mean the voices in my head) it’s time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, a weekly feature heralded as “Essential writing advice for anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a highway flagger.” Several months ago, in my continuing saga at Gliterary Girl on the
hazards rewards advantages realities of being a writer, I talked about the importance of establishing a writing routine. This seemed like a good time to revisit that post because, in addition to still being knee-deep in manuscript revisions, I have finally begun to come down off of yesterday’s caffeine high, which has left me shaking like the only lamb at a coyote picnic.
So keep your pocket change this week; today’s Nickel’s Worth is on me!
In a way, establishing a writing routine is a lot like going to the gym. Except that you don’t get sweaty, never leave a seated position and, unless you write romance or erotica, you probably won’t increase your heart rate much.
But aside from that, it’s just like going to the gym.
When I first started writing in an actual newsroom, my routine consisted of sitting at my desk, staring blankly at the screen and banging on my keys as quickly as possible until it was time to go home, where I would do my actual writing.
Why did I do this?
I was intimidated. On either side of me, journalists were typing feverishly — seemingly non-stop — while I sat waiting for inspiration. My brain was still hardwired for waiting until the kids were asleep before slinking off into the study/laundry room to do my writing, as long as nothing else needed to be done. I was a single parent of two children under the age of 10 at the time, so there was always something else that needed to be done.
I realized two things one night sitting in my luxurious study/laundry room:
1) I needed to push myself to establish a new writing routine that fit my lifestyle and commitments, and
2) By putting my daughter’s favorite sweater through the drier, it was now the perfect size for our neighbor’s Chihuahua.
I’ll admit, re-programming myself took time and persistance. And I had to get over the fact that, as my fellow journalists were typing away, there were long periods of silence — some as long as 10 to 12 seconds — echoing from my cubicle. The truth is, my brain actually adapted quickly to having a real writing schedule, much in the same way your body adapts to a workout routine. And I say “your body” because mine still hates going to the gym no matter what time it is.
I realize not everyone has the luxury of writing full time. However, the same rule applies to anyone who is serious about writing. Married or not, with or without children, full- or part-time job, stay-at-home working or away-at-work parent. In addition to priming your brain to be ready for action at a set time on a regular basis, setting a strict writing routine says something very important to yourself and others:
I’m a writer and you’re not, so neener neener!
Ok, not really.
…Well, actually, yes — but that’s not my point.
My point is that it says your writing, just like making time for each of your other responsibilities, is just as important. Whether it’s 30 minutes or three hours, every day or certain days of the week, that time is a commitment you’ve made to yourself, as a writer, to write — without exception, excuse or apology.
No one objects to you making dinner, doing laundry or ironing on a regular basis. Why should your writing be any different?
Unless you iron your manuscripts; that’s just weird.
(Ned is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org., or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10,Florence, Ore. 97439 )