Welcome to this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing! This will be the third and final excerpt from my upcoming eBook, which I have cleverly titled: Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing. This will help distinguish it from other books on writing, such as “Bob’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing” or “Bubba’s Nickel’s Worth on Righting.” So as I put the final touches on my manuscript, I’d like to offer this hand-picked excerpt of writing wisdom that Publisher’s Weekly is already calling, “Insightfulness that is a rare combination akin to having a Big Mac and carrot salad…”
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 couldn’t do much about the sweater, which she’s still bitter about seven years later. But the first thing — establishing a set routine for my writing — became a priority and it should be for you, too. Married or single, with or without kids, stay-at-home or away-at-work parent, full- or part-time job, setting a writing routine says to yourself and others that your writing is just as important as other responsibilities you have. Whether it’s 30 minutes or three hours, every day or certain days of the week, making that commitment to yourself as writer — to write without exception, excuse or apology — is something you owe to yourself as a writer. No one objects to your making dinner, doing laundry, ironing or picking up the kids after practice, and your writing routine shouldn’t be any different.
I’ll admit, re-programming myself took time and persistence. 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. 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. Bottom line: If you take your writing seriously, so will others.
Unless you iron your manuscripts; that’s just weird.