i have this weird little widget on my google homepage for some website called webook–although i can’t remember how or when i signed up for it…but i followed the link this morning because it said, “what’s the point?” i love that because it’s where i am now in my story.  i can’t figure out what my character is supposed to “do” or “be” if those words make any sense…

well, then, i followed a link to the webook blog….and i found this entry:

Write, Rinse, Repeat

6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970bWhen I got up this morning, my calendar reminded me that I owed WEbook a column. Now, I love writing these posts. I get excited with every conversation I start or new comment that appears. But I was miffed. I’ve been struggling to find time to work on my novel lately and the column deadline felt like the latest wrench. The upside was that my frustration inspired the perfect topic: routine.

In past weeks, I’ve discussed the need to read and the ongoing challenge of keeping your confidence up. Both ideas are far easier to manage if you establish a routine with your writing. That means carving out a regular and consistent amount of time to write. This is easier advice to give than to take, I know. We all have commitments—jobs, families, classes, etc. Nonetheless, I can’t stress the importance of making your writing habitual. It differs for everybody, of course, but if I’m trying to produce something I need to hammer away on it regularly, every day if possible, until I complete a draft. It could be an essay, a short story or a full manuscript. I might write for a couple of hours or the whole day and into the night. If too many days pass when I’m unable to work on something, I lose my handle on it. I forget the larger points I was trying to make, the nuances of certain characters and the small details that I intended to turn into big things later. And I have to go back and painstakingly review what I’ve already written.

I also believe that routine is the handmaiden of inspiration. It can be easy to simply say that one feels blocked or uninspired to write at a particular moment. My feeling is that the best writing moments happen randomly, so it helps to be in your chair and in front of the screen when they arrive. Luckily, for now, I’m able to dedicate large amounts of time to writing. I find if I just wait long enough, if I pick away at something for a while, eventually inspiration arrives. And this happens every day. Sometimes it’s for fifteen minutes and sometimes it lasts for hours, but as long as I’m focused it appears. And that, I think, is a matter of routine. My writing brain knows that I will be in front of the computer almost every day for a set amount of time and (usually) it cooperates.

So what do you do if you’ve settled into a good routine and you’re still not producing? Write something else—an email to an old friend, a personal essay that you might publish, a blog post. It doesn’t matter really, as long as you use your regularly scheduled time to write, to maintain the habit. If it’s just not happening for me, I go for a run to clear my head and then I add an extra half hour onto my writing time.

So, the question is: What is your writing routine and how do you keep yourself true to it?

JohnnyM
JMHammock1John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and MyTango.com, among others. To learn more about him, visitjohnmeils.com.

it’s what i’ve been telling myself and telling somer since november when i really started trying to write longer pieces, not just short memoir things for teaching demonstrations. and the dude’s advice is the exact same as all my writing books have said–not to mention what i try to tell my students when they say what somer says all the time: i can’t write!

so, somer (stephanie, i’m talking to you, too!)….carve out time. start out in small chuncks. ten mnutes tops at first. write. write? write!!!!!!!

and let me know how it goes…

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