I ran across a huge list of writing rules and suggestions by various writers. I’m not going to reproduce them here verbatim, but every so often (i.e. when I think of it or am stuck for something else to post), I’ll grab a couple and comment on them. Today I’ve got one from critically acclaimed writer and actress Esther Freud on finding your routine. She says, “Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.”
Find your routine: well, yes, good in theory. In reality? I don’t know about you, but my routines tend to be few and far between, if we’re talking about the ‘get up in the morning, have coffee sit down at the desk and write’ kind of daily routine. My days tend to be planned out in general – “today I am going to do this and that and then I’ll do these other two things. And if I get time, this and this.” What actually happens is usually nothing I’d even thought of. Why? I’m terrible at saying no, I’m easily distracted and I’m a world class procrastinator. Most writers are. So the writing, even though I do it every day, tends to be squeezed in between demands for my attention/approval on the latest renovation project, phone calls, the next cup of coffee, that fascinating article I found while I was looking up – what was it again? And the inevitable trip to the store for whatever it is we’re having for dinner.
I intend to sit down in the morning and write. I usually end up writing in the late afternoon, mid-evening or middle of the night. But sometimes in the morning. Or late afternoon. Or just before bedtime.
Even within the writing sphere, routines aren’t necessarily the same from project to project, or from type of writing to type of writing. On an unpublished novel, I wrote in the morning (because that’s when the kids were at school) and after dinner (because for some reason, the muse decided to visit then). For Keeper, it was in the evenings, after the kids had settled down for the night. Feral was anytime I could grab a minute and it was written on the dining room computer, not my own machine. Same with Royal Monastic. The Akathist was written longhand, and a lot of it was done inRockaway BeachOregon in the morning, afternoon and late at night.
I can’t listen to music when I write except that the latest book is different. Music, because my main character is a musician, is vital to not just the voice of the novel, but also to tap into my subconscious and access the story. If it weren’t for Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Thelonious Monk and Ella Fitzgerald, Tuya would still be a frustrating niggle at the back of my mind.
I’d say not usual for me, but I’m learning that nothing is “usual” when it comes to getting the story down. Whatever works will be the routine for that book, whether it’s the time of day, the ambience, the noise level, location, or which cat supervises the writing (Gidget supervised Feral, Minou is the taskmaster on Tuya. I can’t wait to find out what Sam has in mind for me.)
So work organically, but with one eye to what works for both you and what you’re working on. Find a routine that lets you enter that place where the real world ceases to exist and the world you’re writing is warm and cozy. And be prepared to change it for the next piece of work you do.