Over the last two weeks or so, I have really begun to buckle down and focus on a routine. With the creation of my summer quarterly goals, the rapid approach of summer’s end, and a lot on my plate both now and in the upcoming months, I have been really motivated to get organized and get efficient. Part of this new striving for efficiency has been in my writing life. I am now keeping record of daily word counts to track my progress, and writing either every day or enough words in a week to roughly equal 1,000 words each day.
To be honest, before I began this new routine, my writing sessions were very infrequent. I would sometimes go a week without writing! It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my WIP. It all had to do with writing momentum.
What, you might ask, is writing momentum? I am referring here to the consistent flow which allows you to maintain a good writing routine and consistently make progress in your WIP/edits/etc. Momentum is something that continues. It moves forward, and pushes whatever is in front of it to move as well.
In my case, going days without writing stilted the flow, and when I returned to the manuscript after a hiatus, I had broken that momentum. The only solution was to write through that lack of motivation, until I eventually regained that momentum. This sort of routine (if it could even be called a routine) was not efficient, and my writing productivity was suffering.
Momentum is important to a writer for several reasons:
IT CREATES PROGRESS
Having strong writing momentum will produce consistent work, and consistent work will eventually result in a finished product.
IT HELPS PREVENT WRITER’S BLOCK
We can never eradicate writer’s block completely, simply because it has to do with your mind being unmotivated or unsure of the story’s direction.
Therefore, you become stuck. This happens at times to every single writer.
Sometimes, it can be fixed with a quick outline and redefining of the story’s structure and direction. This is an after-solution. It fixes the issue after it has already become an issue. What if we could help prevent that problem in the first place?
Momentum can! I used to believe this tip wasn’t as true as everyone claims, but it really is… The more frequently you write, the easier it is. It doesn’t even have to do with more productivity or finishing faster. I personally write in either the early morning, or late evening, depending on if I work on a given day. When I sit down for an evening writing session, it usually can take me up to 15 minutes to get back into the flow of the scene. My momentum builds as I continue to write, and if I am really invested in what’s going on, meeting my 1,000 word target is typically not too difficult. I’ll then go to sleep, and continue either in the morning, or the next night. A few hours does not really cool that momentum too much. Fifteen minutes is still plenty to warm-up.
Let’s say, however, that I don’t write again for another week. When I come around to that day, I guarantee it will take me much longer to get into the scene and re-establish that momentum, because I have let the story settle. I’ll use an illustration which I love to relate to writer’s block – cement. As long as you churn it, it stays soft. Once you let it sit, it hardens. Momentum is that churning.
I do want to point out quickly that I am not saying you have to write every day. I do not and typically cannot write every single day. However, if I have to skip a day, I try my best to write closer to 1500-2000 words the next day. Or, to be honest, I just skip that day. You have to be able to give yourself grace sometimes in realizing that you can’t do everything, and you can’t write every day, consistently, 365 days a year, while also juggling your other responsibilities. My point is less about writing every day and more about finding a routine and momentum which works for you.
How to create momentum:
MAKE WRITING A PRIORITY
Prioritizing means putting some things above others. If writing is truly a passion and priority in your life, you might have to substitute other things (or at least limit them). Watching a movie is a great way to relax and prevent burn out, but if you find yourself watching hours of TV a day, ask yourself how many words you could have written in all that time?
Social media is a powerful tool, and one that I encourage you to become involved in. However, it can also be a time-hog. You could easily spend an hour or more checking/posting on all your social media platforms.
It all comes down to balance. Social media is wonderful, and you should invest time in it. Just remember to be purposeful with your time.
CREATE A SCHEDULE
This is where purposing your time goes from desire to action. I’ll be brutally, shamelessly, honest. If it’s not on a list, it’s not getting done. At least, not all of it. I might accomplish a few things I know I want to do, but chances are, I could have accomplished more, and in better time. Laying out all the tasks you want to accomplish in a day allows you to visualize the purposeful mindset and proactive attitude it will take to get it all done.
It is easy to say, “oh, I have time, I’ll get to that later”, when you don’t realize the ratio of goals to time you have in a day. Having a schedule can not only keep you focused, but can help you establish the amount of time each task will take. Allotting time to each activity can help you maximize the time you have. I will sometimes set alarms on my phone to further help me stay on track. This is especially helpful with things like social media, which can easily become time-guzzlers, without you realizing it.
CREATE A ROUTINE
This is similar to creating a schedule, but it has less to do with productivity and more to do with consistency. Generally, I find that routines can be most effective in the morning. For example, getting up, taking out the dog, making coffee, writing. If you are a night owl, it can be hard to get up and make yourself stay up. Routines can help.
I find personally that creating a daily routine is sometimes difficult, because my days are not all the same. I utilize a routine more in the mornings. I find that a schedule works better for me than a routine, because I can tailor my schedule to each day. I have not yet mastered the art of the routine, but it is still something I know is important!
WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY
Even if it is only 100 words, or ten minutes, add something to your manuscript every day. Edit one paragraph. Write in a journey. Don’t let your momentum settle. Keeping it fresh and forward-moving. This will help bridge the gap between longer writing sessions, if you aren’t able to write every single day.
If you just aren’t able to write every day, even 100 words, this is where a routine can play back into things. Establish how many days you can write each week, and stick to that. Giving your brain an outline can help it stay focused, as opposed to randomly writing whenever you can.
In the end, this post is not about writing every day. It is about finding something that works for you. I hope these tips can help you become more productive, as I hope they will for me! I am by no means a time management guru… I am still learning, developing my own flow, and discovering what works. Each of us must do that for themselves, because we are all different. We just have to make the initiative to take that first step and say, “I’m going to do this”.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life? Have you discovered a good writing momentum, and how has it helped/affected your productivity? Comment below!