With all the writing advice out there, how is one to know which advice is the best?
The truth is–there are no set rules to follow. Writing is not only a process of sharpening your skills, it’s about learning what kind of writer you are, what your process looks like, and what routine you need to be the most productive.
If you look back on the post How 12 Different Authors Write a First Draft, you’ll see how different the process is for everyone.
Technique aside, the one question I see asked a lot is: “How do I find the time to write?”
This is a tough one to answer because everyone’s needs are different. We hear often that writers should write every day. I used to believe this myself, but the more writing became a routine, the more I learned that writing every day doesn’t work for me.
By nature, I’m an all or nothing person. I have to force myself to be obsessive about projects, because if I step away for more than a few days, I’ve completely lost interest in working. I tend to write in bursts, and since I don’t have kids, I have a lot of freedom to set my schedule as it suites me. I’m sure this will change some day, but for now my writing routine is fairly simple. I treat writing like a full-time job. I wake up to an alarm, get dressed, and hopefully by 9am I’m sitting at my computer working. Once I get in the writing zone, I will usually work for 5-8 hour stretches of time, sometimes more, 7 days a week.
By the time I get through 8 hours of writing, I’m practically brain-dead and exhausted, so it’s not a pattern I can keep up for long periods. Once I reach a milestone–which is usually a finished draft–I take a break to recharge.
I usually read books the same way I write them–in bursts. So during my writing down-time I spend as much time as I can devouring as many books as I can squeeze in before I have to start working again.
When my novel is finally completed, edited and ready to go, I’ll take a month, even 2 months off to regroup. There might be days when the muse strikes and I’ll write out a quick chapter or start plotting, but I don’t force myself to write. It’s a nice break and it gives me time to develop ideas before I start putting them to paper.
Now, I know everyone doesn’t always have the flexibility to spend 8 hours a day writing. Back when I used to work a full-time job in advertising, I remember using the same pattern of burst writing, only I would do it at night. I would sit with a glass of wine (or four) in my apartment in Toronto and work from about 7-8pm to sometimes 2 in the morning. I love that I have more freedom with my time now, but I definitely miss those late nights of writing where all my best ideas were born (Mara, Corbin and Malcolm were created during those night writing sessions).
Finding the time to write, especially when you have a lot of other things demanding your attention, can be tricky. But you might find it easier to manage if you know what kind of writer you are. Are you a burst writer? Do you like to write one scene a day? Do you go back and read your work, editing as you go?
On twitter there’s a 5am Writers Club. They are the morning writers, and if you don’t have time at night, this is a great way to get an hour or two of writing in before work.
My writer/mom friends usually say the evening works best for them. They also say that the summer months are a toss up for writing. Most seem to wait until the kids are back in school before they really push themselves to get writing done.
The bottom line is, find out what KIND of writer you are, and then tailor a routine to meet your needs. If you’re okay with writing a chapter a week, GREAT! If you have to knock out half a book in a short stretch, FANTASTIC! But don’t give up. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have the time. There is ALWAYS time to be found for writing, if you want it bad enough. Apparently humans spend up to two years of their lifetimes sitting on a toilet. Imagine two full years of time dedicated it writing *wink wink*.
I think for my next book, I’m going to try and adjust my routine a bit and give myself weekends off. That way I don’t find myself procrastinating on a Sunday because all I want to do is eat candy and have a netflix marathon. I’m learning that time off is important. 🙂
Tell me what your writing routine is. How do you find the time and what kind of writer are you?