Me And My Muse: On Routine

I recently was asked on Twitter how I was able to dedicate so much time to writing. On that particular day, I’d written over 7 hours (and still had another hour or so to go). Of course, I am a full-time writing, so I have that luxury. That wasn’t always the case, and finding time to write was a serious challenge.

But after giving this question considerable thought, I arrived at the answer…one which might surprise you.

It’s all about routine.

That’s right. It’s not about typing quickly, being able to come up with ideas at the speed of light, having an overactive creative gland (you know, the one that sits at the top of your brain that is always threatening to burst free from your skull), or having the best muse on the planet.

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

It’s all about routine.

Make sure to watch the video that inspired this post.

When I first started on this journey of writing, over twenty years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. However, I knew me and understood what it would take in order for me to actually complete the process of writing an actual novel.

Because, and let’s face it, that’s no easy feat.

What it meant was I had to give it the time necessary.

In order to do that, I had to make it a habit. Why? Because I am a creature of such things. I like habit, I like ritual. That’s not to say I am militant about the habits and rituals I keep (although there are some that will never cease, until I am nothing but an urn of dust); but, alas, I am quite aware that developing habits (good ones, that is) makes it easy for me to function efficiently.

And so, in the early days, I made sure to set aside a chunk of time each day to write. At first it was an hour here or thirty minutes there. Eventually that random time turned into an hour every day during the same block on my calendar.

When I eventually married my wife, I quickly discovered the best time to devote to my writing was at night. This very quickly became comfortable for me, especially so because the surrounding darkness of night made it easier to write the fiction I preferred.

There were no distractions. There wasn’t anyone knocking on my office door, or chores to tend to. There was just me, my laptop, and my narrative.

It worked to perfection.

Even with a heard of cats succumbing to the zoomies every night.

The 1k goal

Eventually that 1 hour goal turned into a 1k goal. Every day I set a minimum of 1 thousand words to complete for my fiction. At that point it took me considerably longer to write those 1 thousand words, but I stuck to that goal. Eventually I narrowed it down to around 2 hours and now I can bang out 1k in an hour.

How? Routine.

After years of dedicating myself to writing at the same time of day, for the same amount of time, I eventually become incredibly efficient at spilling words onto the page.

But let’s stop to do the math for a second.

If you’re writing 1k words a day, within 2 months time you can finish a full length novel (unless you’re writing fantasy, at which point it might take you 4 months…or 16). And that’s where I am now. I write a first draft of a novel in 2 months.

And then a new routine kicks in, one that now happens with every book I write:

  • A proof read
  • Beta readers
  • Integrate beta reader feedback
  • Another proof
  • Off to publisher
  • Back and fourth with editor
  • Final proof
  • Back to publisher

That routine has been very good to me so far. But it took a long time to develop.

The moral of this story is simple: Create a routine that works for you. It’s going to be hit-and-miss at first, but eventually you’ll find the sweet spot and your writing will explode.

And not in the bad way.