Some writers are neat. Organized. Controlled. Disciplined. They have a set routine, they write at the same dedicated hour of each day, for the same number of hours each day. They have pages-long outlines they work from, neatly organized charts and graphs and index cards that keep track of all their story details.
But that’s not all writers. Some of us are messy. Uncontrolled. Undisciplined. We have no routines. We spend hours searching back for details we forgot to put on a chart or graph. We write whenever and wherever the muse strikes, not at pre-appointed times, for as long as the muse graces us with her presence. An hour, a morning, a day.
Which is better? Which is best? There’s so much advice out there about the value of getting up an hour early to write, or staying up an hour longer, and doing it on a consistent basis. And even more advice on outlining your story and working from that outline to keep you focused and on track.
But is this really a better/worse situation, or simply two different ways of working? For many writers, like Ernest Gaines and Anne Perry, routine frees their creativity. They need the structure, the organization. Their minds work best in a confined atmosphere.
But equally as many writers are stifled by routine, writers like Erin Entrada Kelly. Like me (your intrepid editor), if she tries to stick to a writing schedule, she worries more about the passing minutes than the story. Like me, she writes when compelled to write, when the words are there, no matter what time of day, or where she is. If you’re like us, if No Routine is your routine, here is some advice to help you along:
1. Never stop writing, even if in your head. Write with your brain and imagination when you’re not at the keyboard or with pen and paper. Creative ideas are all around you. Cultivate the skill of people watching; they’re weird, fascinating creatures. If you do that, you’ll never run out of ideas.
2. Be Ready. Make sure you have a notebook and pen with you at all times, for when lightning strikes. How many times did a brilliant idea occur to you that you thought you’d never forget? And then you forgot it before you even got home…
3. Be productive. When you’re not writing, read. One feeds the other.
4. Don’t out-talk your ideas. Routine-less writers tend to over-talk their great ideas, which dilutes the need to write them down. Spend less time talking and more time writing it down to work out the kinks. Make it yours. Don’t let the idea play itself out in talk before you have the chance to sit with in in front of keyboard or notebook.
5. Find your own footing. Everyone has his/her own way, and you need to find what works best for you. Advice is great—until it doesn’t work. Don’t think you “have” to do what other writers do. What works for you is the best way.