5 Tricks To Establish The Writing Routine Of Your Dreams: Part 1

pablo (3)Part 1: Why Write In The First Place?

Are you a writer who just can’t get a regular writing routine established? Do you want to write, but struggle to find the time for it or to beat distractions? If you’re ready to write more frequently, but just don’t know how to make it happen, this 5-part series can help.

I’ll share with you the exact steps I’ve taken over the last year and a half to create a daily writing practice that helped me write a 98,000-word novel. No shortcuts, no outlandish schemes, nothing you can’t do around your busy day-to-day life.

Just practical, real tricks to finally turn your dream of writing into your daily reality.

Why write in the first place?

This was the question I had to ask myself in August of 2014 when months of not writing started to weigh on me.

I’d been down that road before – after graduating from my MFA program in early 2011, I didn’t write for about a year. If you’ve ever felt the frustration of wanting to write but not being able to write, you’ll know what I mean.

Your better logic is telling you to do it: it’s what you want to do, you have ideas, important things to say, characters to create. It’s all you can think about. But the minute you sit down, you freeze. Or every word you type is awful. Or you can’t focus for more than a few minutes before it all just feels too hard and you’d rather do anything else – truly anything else: are there any week-old dishes I can wash? Anyone with a small child need help changing diapers?! Please. Let me scrub your bathroom grout. I’ll even clean out your garbage disposal for you. Otherwise, I might have to write.

I was sick in 2014. I have an autoimmune disease that flared up worse than it ever had before. I was so fatigued that spring and summer, I could barely stay awake past 7pm. After a full day of work, writing just wasn’t going to happen. So it didn’t. For months.

I reassessed my relationship with writing when I started to feel better towards the end of the summer. I wanted to write, but it felt impossible. Insurmountable.

Maybe you can relate to this: the hardest part of ANY creative project is starting. It’s the worst part for me, and I know it’s the same for a lot of other writers, too.

All I wanted, really, was a writing routine. I wanted to write regularly again and I wanted it to be easy. I didn’t want to battle with myself about it every single day. I just wanted it to be something I did without struggling.

But how?? Establishing a regular writing routine is one of the hardest things for some writers to do. How was I supposed to do it?

I started with this simple question to myself: Why?

Why write in the first place? Why do I want a writing practice? Why isn’t it enough for me to just write once in a while when I feel “inspired?” What do I want to get out of it?

These are all questions you should ask yourself as this point, too.

My answer was simple: I want to write again because being sick took it away from me. And I’m not myself if I’m not writing. All I want to get out of it is a minimum of one creative sentence a day. Just enough to say I did it.

And that’s where it started.

I challenged myself to 100 straight days of writing. It was on a whim, so I didn’t have much time to think about it or back out.

Here were the guidelines: Have zero expectations for any of it. Write something creative every single day. Bare minimum is one sentence. Just show up.

It could be written by hand, on the computer, or typed into an email draft on my phone as I fall asleep. Work, social media, lists – none of that counted. It had to be something that could possibly be fodder for a story. That’s it.

Some days I wrote for an hour, but most of the time, I wrote for 15 minutes by hand using a prompt. Occasionally there were whole weekend afternoons I spent at the coffee shop with pen in hand. Some nights I really did type a sentence or two into my phone as I was falling asleep.

I couldn’t skip a day, though. That was the deal I’d made with myself.

A year and a half later, I can tell you this – the writing routine of your dreams start with understanding why you want to write in the first place.

Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, before you start plotting out the novel or memoir or screenplay you’ll create, before you block a single hour in your calendar to write… answer these questions:

What do you want to get out of writing regularly? Is it that you want to free write more often and see what comes up? (That was my main reason.) To play? To churn out words on an existing project? To get started on a new project? There’s no right or wrong here.

What excites you about getting into a writing practice? What’s the appeal? What do you hope it does for you?

And deeper than that – why write at all? What’s in it for you, on a personal, human level?

What makes you want to write, anyway? 

I promise that figuring this out is really the key to doing anything worthwhile. And listen, if you can’t come up with a good reason to do it, can you then let yourself off the hook entirely? Can you stop feeling bad about not writing? Maybe it’s not your thing.

On the flip side, though, if you know you have to write, that NOT writing is simply not an option, can you at least agree that it’s important enough to start doing regularly?

I would love to hear why you want to write. Share it below – it might make it even more real for you to put it out there!

And if you found this tip helpful, share it with other writers who might need it too.

Check out the rest of this series here:

Part 2: Make Your New Writing Routine Absolutely Foolproof

Part 3: Why Writing For 100 Days Straight Changes EVERYTHING

Part 4: How To Create A Trigger That Saves You Time And Energy – And Gets You Writing

Part 5: Exactly What It Is That Makes Writing “Hard” – And How To Beat It


What It Means To Start

Up in the treetops

Over the summer, I enrolled in Sarah Selecky’s course, Story is a State of Mind. I was part of the Summer School intensive, which meant I was going through the course in real-time with my classmates, and was accountable each Monday to post my assignment to our Wiki group, comment on the readings, and give my classmates feedback.

For me, it’s easier to start writing something when I’m accountable to someone else. I think it feeds into my desire to meet other people’s expectations of me, but that’s a psychoanalysis for another blog post.

Ever since the course ended in early September, I’ve been sitting on this draft of a story that I started during the program.

I think about the story and the main character all the time. I actually feel a little bit haunted by one line in particular that I wrote. I don’t know where it came from, but it startles me. And I know that’s good writing.

But getting started with the next step of the process is sort of killing me. The story needs to be finished, first of all. And then it needs revising and polishing. And another set of eyes on it for good measure.

But again– starting is killing me.

This is nothing new to you writers and artists out there. I’m sure this form of resistance is an old song and dance for many creatives.

It’s the same feeling I had when I went zip lining for the first time this summer. I was in New Hampshire with my husband and my family. We went to this aerial adventure course in the treetops of Loon Mountain. There were multiple zip lines throughout the course, ranging in length and height off the ground.

On the first line, I felt resistance. I hooked in my harness the way the instructor showed us. I had my hand in the right position to keep my body facing forward as I zipped through the trees. The prep work was done, but I physically couldn’t get off the platform. Every inch of my being resisted stepping off.

Someone recommended leaning back into my butt, where the harness basically cradles your entire body. When you feel that support, you know you can let go and be safe.

They were right. Once I leaned back just a touch and felt the support o the harness, I knew I could push past the physical resistance and just let go. So I did. And you know what? It was freaking great! Zip lines make you feel like a badass.

How does this relate to writing? Well, I’m standing on the platform with this story. I’m harnessed in. I can sort of see the other side. I just need to start the process and get back into the story. I need to lean into the harness and trust. And the harness is there, in so many forms– an MFA, feedback from other writers, encouragement from writer friends, a general sense of knowing this can be done because I’ve done it before, after all.

Why is it so hard to start? Because of what it means.

To start means to surrender, to have faith, to risk it all. To take the chance that the harness might snap mid-line, but to do it anyway.

Yet to start also means to take the chance that the harness will hold you until you get to the end of the line, that it’ll cradle your efforts the entire way, and release you safely on the other side. And then you’ll have to accept the fact that you did it. Even if your work never gets published, or earns you thirty rejection letters, or ends up spending the rest of its life on an external hard drive collecting dust, you did it.

What it means to start is this: letting go, and giving yourself a chance to see what you’re made of.

That’s me on the zip line!

Write Despite… Being Away From The Page For A While

When you come back to the page after too long away, you might feel stiff.

You haven’t been here in a while, so the first words will be the most difficult. And they’ll look the worst.

You’ll judge them for being wrong, for looking stupid together, for not living up to the potential they had in your mind.

Being away from the page for a while is ok. Coming back is what matters. Putting word after word, sentence after sentence until you’ve climbed your way out is what matters.

So write despite feeling rusty and out of practice. Write despite the distance that’s grown between you and your writing. If it calls to you, just start where you are.

Meet yourself here, in this moment, and begin again.

Define Creativity Within Your Own Life {VLOG}


My first vlog here on my blog. We’re talking about creativity, folks!

My first vlog here on my blog. We’re talking about creativity, folks!