“Write everyday at the same time,” is the advice you hear given to writers over and over again. I have always felt guilty that I have not established an effective daily writing routine.
I have tried writing at all different times: morning, evening and even my lunch hour but nothing stuck for long. My lifelong dance with insomnia made it difficult to write at the same time every morning. My lunch hour was inconsistent as well. I could probably write at the same time every night but I am too drained at the end of the day most of the time.
To some people, I know this sounds like I am just making excuses but I am sure there are other writers that struggle with the same dilemma. The goal is not to construct the perfect prose every time you write but you do want to give the best you have to it each day.
I was watching Joanna Penn’s interview with Sarah Painter yesterday. Penn posed the proverbial question about when and how often to write. A few things stood out for me in Painter’s response. Painter said that she established writing as a daily habit by making it automatic. She decided to do it first thing when she woke up. She keeps the computer on the bedside table and grabs it right after opening her eyes. Her lovely husband brings her a cup tea every morning. (I’ll have one of those, please!) So, she is all set to go. She doesn’t even get out of bed. There is no choice about whether to write. In fact, the only choice would be- to not write.
The idea of making writing automatic was fascinating but then I thought, “what about when insomnia keeps me up for half the night?” Painter’s very next words, as if on cue, were, “the reason I like writing first thing in the morning so much is because I am less awake, I’ve got less resistance.” She also pointed out that since the day hasn’t really started yet, there are no distractions.
I read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, so I was familiar with this process of using a cue (in this case: waking up) to change a habit but hadn’t considered it as a way to establish a writing routine per se. Often people use it to stop doing something like smoking or to remember doing something like flossing after you brush your teeth. I was curious to see if Painter’s routine might work for me.
All day long yesterday, I kept thinking to myself, “wake up, write. Wake up, write.” (I was delighted when the play on words hit me: “wake up, write. Wake up right!” How perfect a mantra is that for establishing a new habit?) I was excited to test it this morning. As is often the case, I did not sleep well. I was awoken by the phone ringing. So this morning the routine was more like “wake up-talk to Mom-write” but I did it. In fact, you are reading the results right now. I feel comfortable calling day one-albeit not perfect-a success.
My plan is to stick with Painter’s writing routine and “Wake up-write. Wake up right” every day!