How to Find Your Best Writing Routine
Your writing routine is literally the how you get the writing done. It's the process you use to sit down and put words on the page. But if you hate your routine, or you're following one that doesn't work for you, or you don't have a routine at all, you're not going to be able to get very many words on the page, and you're certainly not going to enjoy doing it.
Your writing routine is composed of four ingredients: your when, your where, your how, and your how much. You may already have an idea of how these ingredients are functioning (or not functioning) in your writing life, but we don't want to just pick some aimlessly and assume it's perfect for us, because there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to your writing life. You've got to figure out the best routine for you, which is different from me and every other writer.
To do this, you have to experiment. You need to play with these various different elements, testing out what works and what doesn't work for you. You have to break out of your comfort zone, try new things, and see what works for you personally.
If you hate your writing routine (or don't have one at all), you want to experiment these four elements to figure out what your best writing routine really is. Because you want to love your writing life, and you also want to get the writing done.
And even if you've already got a pretty good writing routine, you still want to pay attention to how it's going. Your life will change (you'll get new responsibilities, find new priorities, develop new habits) and your writing life will have to change too. You'll want to pay attention to what's currently working and what could be slightly improved to optimize your writing times for the best. Think of this as documenting and strategically tweaking your writing routine to make it better.
So, let's take a look at your when, your where, your how, and your how much, the 4 major ingredients to your best writing life, to see what you'll experiment with.
*Plus, I've got 86 concrete ways you can experiment with your own writing life to test out really what works for you. Click the button below to get your FREE list!
Let's dive in to how we'll experiment!
The 4 ingredients of your best writing routine
1 | Your When
Your when is the time you choose to write. It could be specific (like 8:15am) or more general (in the morning, after breakfast). When you experiment with your when, you're looking for the times you feel most energized and creative. If you're always exhausted when you get home from work, that might not be your best writing time. If you're not a morning person, that won't be your best writing time. You want to choose a time that's available to you and when you feel ready to write.
2 | Your Where
Your where is the place you choose to write. It could be somewhere familiar and consistent, or somewhere brand new. It could be private and quiet, or it could be loud and public. It could be a definitive desk that's reserved for writing, or a new writing desk somewhere in the world every day. Choose a place that's accessible and inspiring.
3 | Your How
Your how is the method you use to write. This could mean you write by hand, by computer, or by dictation into your phone. It could mean you write sitting down, standing up, or lying in bed. It could mean you write with music, or snacks, or while eating apples in the bathtub (looking at you, Agatha Christie), or while drinking coffee. Some writers swear by creating a writer's ritual around their method, and by implementing it again and again over time, it will invoke the muse for you. But there are good times to change it up. For example, if I need help getting words on the page for a first draft, I'm going to opt for some wine outside because it helps me get my muse to shut up and relax me. But if I need to edit a story and look for grammatical errors, I'm going for hot coffee at my desk so I can have structure and focus. Choose your how based on what works and what you need at that point in time.
4 | Your How Much
Your how much is the measurement you use to track your progress. It could be time-based (i.e. I'll write for 1 hour) or it could be word-count-based (i.e. I'll write 500 words). You could also choose to measure by chapter of your novel, pages, or just till you feel good and done.
+BONUS | Your How it Felt
Your how it felt isn't what you generally think of when you consider the various aspects of your writing routine, but it's probably the most important ingredient of them all. If you're supremely productive at 3 o'clock in the morning, but you hate the way you feel when you write then, don't do it. If you love the way you feel when you write by hand, definitely keep it up. You want to love writing as much as possible, and so strive for these good-feeling sessions as often as possible.
Likely, when you're enjoying a writing session, you're going to end up being productive in it as well. But there are some special case scenarios. For example: you might love the way you feel when you write in the evenings, but you don't always get a lot done because you have other responsibilities during that time. You need to pay attention to your other responsibilities and respect your reality, but still try still infuse some of those sessions into your practice. See what you can sacrifice or compromise between writing and life. In this example, to get more writing times in the evenings, you could prepare a meal ahead of time so you don't have to cook, push evening chores like laundry to a different day or time, sacrifice an hour of TV, or plan to have a full evening writing on Tuesdays, and not writing at all on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Find a way to love your writing practice and still live your life.
You'll want to experiment with your writing times, places, methods, and measurements to figure out what works best for you. You don't want to fall into a routine that doesn't work, or isn't working as well as it should. Experimentation with new practices helps make sure that doesn't happen. Try new things and figure out what exactly makes the most sense for you and your writing life. When you experiment, you energize and challenge your brain, you have a whole lot of fun, and you discover what works (and what doesn't work) for you so you can optimize your writing time overall.
If you're ready to get started with your experimentation, I've got 86 new times, places, methods, and measurements for you to try in your writing life. Get your master list below!
When you experiment with a new writing routine, make sure you keep track of how it went. You want to remember what you did in each session and, most importantly, how it felt, so you can determine what your best writing routine actually looks like. When you track your writing sessions long-term, you might realize you love writing at a time, in a place, or using a way that you didn't think you actually felt. (If you don't think you're a morning person, but you look back and notice that you loved the way every morning session feels, you might be onto something). Find somewhere you can record each session and reflect on what you'll keep and what you'll avoid in your routine.
*If you need a place to help with this experimentation and tracking of your writing routines, check out:
In The WriteLife Planner, you get a Daily Writing Task. Some of these tasks get you experimenting with your routine in new ways, and every day has space for you to record your when, where, how, how much, and how it felt so you can keep track of how your sessions are going. Plus, there's even analysis guides to help you make sense of all your writing routine data after you've done it.
The most important thing you want to do is find what works for you and stick to it. When you figure out your best writing routine and you do it consistently, you'll begin to cement writing as a habit and command the muse to come on your time. Your writing will be easier, the muse will be on your shoulder, you'll enjoy your writing process, and you'll get much more done.
How have you experimented with your writing life before? How'd it go? What did you discover? When did you realize you had a routine worth sticking to?