Saturday, January 23, 2010

Writing as Routine

Do you sit around waiting for the writing muse to strike? Do you have to go to some exotic place to get inspired to write? Do you think writing is all about imagination–well, fiction writing at least? Do you have trouble getting started writing? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then perhaps what you’re lacking is a routine for your writing.

Good writing relies on writing as much as you can–regularly. While this applies to just about anything you do, most people don’t consider writing in that way. It stands to reason that the more you cook, the better at it you become. So why wouldn’t that apply to your writing?

I always tell my writing students that learning to write is like taking a shower or a bath. Someone had to teach you when you were very young. First, they washed you daily. Then, as time went on, you learned by repetition to wash yourself. But you didn’t stop there. As you grew older, you began to establish a washing routine. Only you know where you begin to wash your body and where you end. Some people even have routines for “quick” showers when they’re in a hurry and “soaking” showers or baths when they want to relax. And let’s not forget the “body beautiful” shower or bath when you take care of other things such as trimming hair and nails.

Now let’s apply this to writing. To get your mind in the write mode, you need to write regularly often–daily if you can. And you need to write at the same time every day, even if it’s for a short time. By doing so, you’ll require less time to warm up, so that you’ll be able to continue where you left off the last time you wrote. If you wait too long between sessions, you’ll lose your train of thought which means you’ll have to digress. So each time you sit down to write, you’ll have to go back a step before you move forward.

It also helps to work on the same piece of writing for a stretch. This way your mind is only working in one direction for a while. If you flit from piece to piece, your mind won’t be able to pick up all the pieces, and it will take you more time to get started each time.

I’ll be discussing this more in the coming weeks. But for now, figure out when you can spare an hour from your busy schedule. This can be daily or two or three times weekly. Then stick to it. Writing is like exercise. If you don’t do it regularly, it takes a while to get back in the swing.

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