I used to have a writing routine. After my husband left for work, I wrote, without interruption until he came home for lunch. After lunch I might do editing, but more likely I’d do my chores — shopping, cooking, gardening, sewing. Before bed, I’d read.
Life events have thrown that routine out the window. I’m seeking a new routine that fits with my present lifestyle. I found that coffee shop writing works well, but I don’t like leaving home every afternoon and our recent spell of snow on snow on snow has made that impossible.
I decided to research how other authors maintained their routines, or even if they had one. The results showed nearly all of 20 famous authors kept to a strict early morning time for writing every day and most employed vigorous activity in the afternoons. Maya Angelou wrote in a tiny hotel room with no distractions. Jane Austen wrote in the sitting room while her sisters and mother sewed. If visitors came, she hid her papers and joined in the sewing. E.B. White in the busy living room of his house. His family ignored him and he ignored them. (Rather like my coffee shop method – lots of activity but all as white noise.)
Fascinating facts, but none that suggested a routine that did not include early morning writing hours. Of the modern authors, all mentioned the need to turn off social media, etc. during writing hours. That siren call of “you’ve got mail” seems hard to resist.
Philip Roth said “one skill that every writer needs it the ability to sit still in the deeply uneventful business.“ At least this advice isn’t tied to a time of day. On the surface, sitting still seems a simple requirement. It is not. How often have you sat at your writing desk and decided to just run out to the mailbox, or throw in a load of laundry, or make that one urgent phone call? Sitting still and concentrating on one, difficult, mental task requires a tremendous amount of discipline. That may be why writers desperately seek routines, or rituals. If we do the same thing, every day, in the same place, perhaps some magic will happen. Our brains will turn on to “writing mode” and the words will pour out on their own.
I wish. Only rarely have the words poured out for me and that is when I’m on a roll. Getting started is a whole other question.
I did find one piece of encouragement. Nora Roberts began her writing career by making notes on stray bits of paper while caring for twin boys with too much energy and a no school day. No special morning hours there!
This quote from Jennifer Crusie gives hope to the scattered approach .
Do you spend eight hours a day/ 40 hours a week writing or is it less structured? Honey, I don’t do anything for forty hours a week. It’s “less structured.” I like that. “Less structured.” Instead of “completely random and chaotic.”
None of my research has provided an example of a successful writer who uses the afternoon hours as prime writing time, but I did learn that consistency is a virtue, no matter what the time of day. And sitting still . . . I’ll work on that.
Over to you, dear readers. Do any of your have a routine that includes filling the empty pages in the afternoon? Please share.