As a writer and freelancer in the literary world, I am very fortunate to be able to set my own hours, though this is not without constraints. I will share with you the obstacles that I have faced and the methods I have developed that seem, at the moment, to be the most effective for me at the moment. I will tell you about my inspiration, how to surmount obstacles – not that I’m calling the kids an obstacle!, the elements that work for me, and finally, how I’ve put it all together. As a writing mama, I need to be organised to make it work!
LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION
I have always been curious about other people’s writing routines. I have spent many an hour googling the writing routines of any number of authors – from Marukami’s running & writing combination to Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo writing, Maya Angelou wrote in the mornings until midday and Neil Gaiman gets up and then sets himself to writing all day, without allowing himself to do anything other than write or just sit there. It’s a fascinating internet rabbit hole to go down.
There are those who rise early, and those who work late. Writers who can give themselves over for uninterrupted weeks on end, and those who juggle with other commitments. There are writers who tackle one project at a time, and those that have several on the go. There is no right or wrong way to write, the trick is to work out what suits you.
Over the years, I have tried elements of different author’s approaches to find which works for me. I’ll be honest, I didn’t poach any of Hunter S. Thompson’s techniques!
PLAN FOR OBSTACLES
As for me, I am not a famous author, however I do take my writing seriously. If you want to work as a writer, then your writing must be your work.
I have two primary school aged children and a lovely labradoodle.
Because my partner works full time and requires to log on & off work at set times, the duties of getting the children to & from school and the bulk of the day time dog walking falls to me. I am also half of a small independent poetry publisher in Scotland (check us out: Stewed Rhubarb Press – A poetry publisher from Scotland), a freelance publicist and a whole portfolio of other services. None of these things can be ignored. Therefore, I plan the time for the family, the work and the writing into my week. I plan every element into the week, including evenings that I keep clear and a “buffer day” every so often for catch up.
ELEMENTS THAT WORK
I find that I write best when I’m on a fairly even keel with my mental health. I have spoken often about how much writing helps my mental health, and part of that is the routine. However, I know that if things are piling up a bit, I sacrifice a day or two of novel writing and replace it with my own expressive or visceral writing. Some of these I schedule in – I know for instance to give myself a day of expressive writing after the school holidays really helps me to get back in the groove. It would be easy to let myself slip into having too many of these, so I only “allow” myself 8 hours’ worth per month. I rarely use more than 4 , which is two writing sessions.
Which brings me neatly to writing sessions. Many writers find the 25minute sprint approach effective. I find I tend to hit my stride at about 15mins into a session and then maintain a good pace for about half an hour after which I start to think ahead and make notes, so I write in 2 hour sessions, with a 10min coffee break half way. I usually do one session a day, however a couple of times a month, I will earmark a day in which I will do three such sessions.
My “golden day” looks like this – last week I lost two of them because my eldest was sent home from school feeling poorly and I barely got through it all, using Saturday morning for a catch up session. I aim to do this Mon-Thurs. Friday is always a bit of a free for all!
7:00: wake up & 10min yoga stretch (I’m 6ft2” – if I don’t stretch, the whole sitting at a computer gets uncomfortable!)
7:30 – 9:00: get the kids up, breakfast, to school & short “poop loop” for my dog, load dishwasher & put laundry on, check email & messages on phone to see if I’ve anything urgent needing attention.
9:00 – 10:00: exercise of some sort (Hiit / treadmill / longer walk with my dog). It helps me not feel too restless by the time I sit down + I start to “zone” into my story
10:00 – 12:00: writing session. I leave my phone on silent in a separate room, I ignore all the world, stopping only for an 11am coffee top up. I start with a 7min free write to get the juices going.
12:00 - 1:00: dog walk + lunch (and another coffee!)
1:00 - 3:00pm: emails, freelance & publishing work. The fact time is tight saves me from falling into a social media pit when I go on social media.
3:00 - 4:00pm: pick the kids up from school.
4:00 - 5:00pm: homework for the kids, I sit at the table with them and get some further work done.
6:00 - 8:00pm: tea time, bed time, activities, fold laundry. It gets a little fluid around this time!
8:00 - 10:00pm: it’s a bit of a catch-all time of day. My husband & I settle in front of the TV. Some days I write poetry at this time, or articles & blog posts. Occasionally short stories. I sew Cub Scout & Beaver badges. Often, I catch up on emails & admin tasks - for the family, for work. During the submissions period with my publisher hat on, I read stacks of poetry!
10:00 - 11:00pm: chill time! I like to do the Wordle & I’ve been learning Gaelic on Duolingo so I do that too. Then it’s bedtime!
So that's my ideal writing routine. In a good week I manage 3 days on this schedule. Usually it is 2, but some weeks, I even squeeze in 4. In the school holidays, I find it hard to keep up the juggle. So I choose to be kind to myself. My writing year is planned so that the long form writing can be put on hold. I keep up the freelance work, the publishing work, and still write every day.
So that's me. Do you write? What's your routine? Is there a writer who's routine you find especially interesting? Leave me a comment.