“Dear Strong Bad, What is your morning routine?”
As I’ve started to get more into regular writing, I’ve been looking at how other writers and creative folks structure their time in an effort to find what works for me. I have a pretty varied schedule: my job’s hours vary wildly day-to-day and week-to-week, and living in a new state means taking time to explore the area and cultivate new relationships. So I don’t have the ability to write during one specific period of the day like I’d assumed writers do.
Apparently, it doesn’t have to work that way. This is a chart of (mostly male and white) creatives and their daily routines. They’re all over the place. And many writers don’t have the luxury of a set schedule; they have to pay the bills, take care of kids, live their lives. Ted Howell, for example, writes about finding snatches of time for academic writing between side jobs and two young children. But even though they may not have set schedules, every writer who actually does work and improves their work has a routine, integrating daily writing into their lives.
So I’ve been working on structuring my own routine. I have a trendy little Moleskine calendar notebook (it’s black even) in which I write everything – my work schedule, events, hangs with friends – and I use that to block off time for writing each day. My goal is 20 hours of work per week on projects over and above blogging. Some days it’s an hour, some days it’s five, but it’s important to me to get something on paper every day.
I’ve also found it’s important to me to have a space for writing. I don’t have the luxury of a home office or studio, so until I get around to building a tiny-house-style writer’s cottage, I’ve staked out study carrels at my local library and isolated spots along the Poudre River outside Fort Collins – places where I can have quiet and a sense of isolation (both of which I’ve found I need in order to do serious work). I have a desk in my bedroom, too, but for some reason writing in the same room I sleep and in which I store my books, clothes, and whatnot is difficult. I think that the break is important, the physical transition to a space that is only for writing.
It’s just in the past couple weeks that I’ve begun to implement this more intentional structure. And I’ve already had to adapt; for example, I’m exploring the central Rockies of Colorado this week, so right now I’m at City on a Hill Coffee in Leadville. I’m about to head to Leadville’s public library to do an hour or so of work.
So, that’s what I’m going with for now. If this routine stops working, I’ll change it. The specifics of the structure don’t really matter, I’m guessing. It’s having structure in the first place that’s important.