CREATING A WRITING ROUTINE
It's that time of year again when everyone in the writing community are in the midst of NaNoWriMo. I know that I plan to take part this year, and I will have been doing what I usually do, starting two new projects and spreading the 50K over the two of them. Saying that, one thing that I remember from my first proper NaNo was the want to keep the momentum going, to find some kind of writing routine from it, to learn how to translate the work I'd done in November into doing the same over the coming months and years.
I did manage it, I created my own hashtag and carried it through into December and beyond, and it's very much the reason that I get as much done these days as I do, because I managed to slip into a writing routine without really thinking about it. It's one of the good parts of NaNo, and something that I know a lot of writers will be thinking about as they get their words this month.
My only qualm with it is that the focus is so much on writing every single day that it's not a sustainable thing that translates into a writing routine for the majority of writers. Yes, there are some people who do write every day and it works for them, and that is great, but for the rest of us, sitting down and pouring our words every single day of the year is going to lead to one place only: burnout.
While NaNo is about coming together as a community, and building that habit of sitting down to write, the reason it usually ends with people not writing for a long time afterwards is because for most of us, it's not something we can do month in and month out. I know that I write a lot every single month, but that's because part of my routine started by building things up slowly. I didn't start with a set word count. I didn't start planning to write every single day. I started with writing a page for every day of the month, and that's where my writing routine came from.
So if you're here at the blog today wanting to get advice on how to turn out mammoth word counts every month, or how to keep the momentum from NaNo going, I will give you some tips. They're ones that I've talked about before, but everyone can do with a refresher.
#1 START SMALL
Like I said above, the reason my first NaNo led me to where I am today is because I was sure that 50K in a month just wasn't possible for me given my health, given my slow writing, and also given that I had never even managed more than 10K in a month before. To have jumped into NaNo for a short term goal would've been fine, but since I wanted it to light that fire in me about writing again, I went with a goal I was pretty sure would stretch me, but also be attainable. It was, and from there I switched from pages to chapters. It took me years to get to the point where I'm at now, and things changed a lot in my life, both personal and professional, for me to manage what I do now.
#2 BREAKS AREN'T OPTIONAL
This is something that I can't stress enough. Even if you are choosing to, and are able to, write every single day, which I honestly don't think is a great idea, then you need to have some kind of break. It can't be the only thing you do. Like get up, write for hours upon hours, and then go to bed. That is just going to leave you burnt out and no one wants that. If you don't want to take a whole day, then go for a morning, or an afternoon, or a block of time at the weekends. Whatever works for you, but this is a step you cannot skip!
#3 COMFORT IS KEY
I think with any kind of routine, you need to be comfortable. Whether that's comfortable in the physical sense or the mental or emotional sense. I personally like to write at my desk, but I have been known to write in bed, or at coffee shops, or around the house. If you're trying to make this into a routine, you don't want to be forcing yourself to do so in a place that makes you anxious, or hurts your back, or what not, that will lead to you associating your writing time with something bad, which just makes you want to avoid it.
#4 TAKE YOUR TIME
By this I simply mean that if you know it will take you a couple of hours to get to where you want to be, then plan for that. Don't tell yourself you have fifteen minutes to do something that you know will take you an hour. That will stress you out, it'll make you feel like you're already failing before you started, and it also sets you up to fail, and that's never a good idea. Take your time, be kind to yourself, and if you find that your goal is too much for you, there's nothing wrong with breaking it down further.
So there we go, those are my tips when it comes to creating a writing routine. I've always found that too much of the time the focus is on output rather than what you as a writer can do. I know my output, I've experimented with what's too much and what's too little, and I've had all this time to do that. You can do the same should you wish to, but try to go easy on yourself.
Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!
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