Routine has been on my mind lately. My schedule has changed dramatically the last few months, from when I started work on 3024AD I was working well north of 50 hours per week at my (former) day job, to now when I am, well, not and I have positively gobs of time, but a lot more going on than just writing. Whereas the writing process is fairly straightforward, and I am pretty good at getting through edits, etc, now I run the business of being a self-published author as well, which ads a whole mess of balls to keep in the air.
Any number of challenges and time sinks face the modern writer. I can cite a myriad of examples, just from the authors I follow in Twitter- kids, jobs, second jobs, cooking, cleaning, other projects, not wanting to write, drinking, Game of Throne, the entire goddamn internet. There’s a lot out there, which is why a good schedule and routine are so valuable. Since each situation is unique, I’m not going to tell you what to do (not like you should really listen to me anyway), but rather, what I factor in and a few things that have worked for me.
But before you even set a schedule, there are some things you need to take into consideration:
A while back, I talked about goals; setting them, reaching them and some stuff in the middle. This is really the first thing you should look at when developing a routine- what is your goal with it? Is it to have a book out- or several? Will you be content with it being published, or do you want it to be a career? These will determine what your schedule even needs. The person who wants to finish a novel is very different than the person who wants to publish three or four per year, who is very different than the person who wants to publish them traditionally versus self. You get the idea. Set definite goals for your writing, as well as all the business-y things that go with it.
You also need to know where you are at as a writer- one of the things I have noticed in my own small journey has been the ups and downs my writing has gone through. I can write 1,000 words on any of my current projects without breaking a sweat, but put a metaphorical gun to my head and ask me to come up with something new? Pull the trigger, son, it’s over. So if you can sit down for two hours and crank out 2k words guaranteed, that makes it simple. But not everyone can do that, and even those who can can’t necessarily do it all the time. Plan accordingly.
History is littered with writers who lost families, jobs, homes, etc for a whole slough of reasons- you don’t have to be among them. Set priorities, and don’t let things that matter slip (this concludes the hypocritical portion of the blog post).
On to the schedule itself (or, physician, heal thyself):
I’m not going to cite any one in particular (other than ol’ Ben over there), because if you want to read about routines of famous writers, just Google that- they’re easy to find. For your routine, you need to know all the things listed above, as well as where your limits are, and how you work best. One author I know works in fifteen minute intervals, takes a break, does it again. Another writes for two hours a day- and that’s it. So figure what works for you, and build from there.
Last, but far from least, the thing I shouldn’t have to tell you, but have to tell myself every day- limit distractions. This used to be much easier- every interesting person and bit of information never appeared on anyone’s typewriter, or in their notebook, but now it’s just alt+tab away. So however you do it, do it. Don’t check twitter, facebook, tumblr, i09, whatever else. Bribe yourself if you have to (one author kept Hershey Kisses on her desk; every 500 words, she got to eat one, which opens a whole new world of self-control issues, if you ask me).
In any case, however you go about it, a routine should serve to improve you as a writer and help you stay focused. I hope this helps you with yours!