For writers, this season is crunch time (and not just because of all the fallen leaves underfoot). From the creative marathon of NaNoWriMo to the cold weather driving us indoors — not to mention those upcoming holiday vacations — now’s the perfect time to get cracking on your writing project.
That being said, writing is the quintessential embodiment of the phrase “easier said than done.” In order to make real progress, you can’t just keep talking about what you’re going to do. You need to make active strides to meet your writing goals — and one of those strides is establishing a strong writing routine.
So without further ado, here’s our definitive three-part breakdown of how to build a productive writing routine that will last you through November and beyond.
1. Schedule sustainable writing time
It’s one thing to create a schedule for NaNoWriMo — but what about the rest of the year? For those of us with jobs and relationships, trying to write 1,000+ words every day is much more likely to bring stress than success. So while your crazy NaNo schedule might work for now, it’s good to think about how you can plan your writing beyond this super-intense month.
In order to create a sustainable writing schedule, you need to consider a) how much time you can carve out of your daily life, and b) when that time should be, based on measures like your ultradian rhythm. You might try turning any free time that you already have into “writing time” — for instance, an hour between classes, or twenty minutes on public transport.
However, not everyone is able to write effectively during such brief periods of time. For all you “deep focus” writers out there, don’t worry about writing on the bus. Instead, make the effort to schedule large blocks of writing a couple times a week. Yes, this might interfere with your social calendar — but it’ll be worth it once those pages start adding up.
The takeaway here is that you don’t have to write for hours every day to build a long-term writing routine. You just have to find out what works for you and stick to it: hence the term “sustainable.”
2. Help your environment help you
In the same vein as knowing when to schedule your writing for max productivity, it’s also important that you figure out where. Again, different people have different preferences — background noise vs. silence, company vs. alone time, etc.
For those who want to strike a balance between quiet and social surroundings, the library is a great option. Other settings that tend to be conducive to writing include empty classrooms and coffee shops. You can also try simply working from home (so to speak).
You’ll have to experiment a bit to achieve your ideal atmosphere, and it may change from day to day. Just don’t kid yourself about where you can actually be productive. If you’ve been working out of a café for the past week and you’ve barely finished a page, it’s time to switch things up.
Finally, no matter where you choose to write, there are certain things you can do to remove distractions from your environment. Even if you’re already using Freedom, you should put your phone in another room — or even leave it behind completely, if you’re working out of the house! You should also make sure you’re comfortable, but not so comfortable you start to feel sleepy and unfocused.
All this is called altering your choice architecture — and it’s critical if you want to get work done in any environment, whether that’s a coffee shop or your home office.
3. Take advantage of creative resources
Writer’s block is one of the writer’s greatest obstacles to productivity. It’s all too easy to skip a scheduled writing session when you’re feeling uninspired — and that turns into skipping two, then three, and before you know it, you’ve stopped writing completely.
In order to keep your writing routine going strong in the face of writer’s block, you need to look outward for inspiration. Your own ideas might be feeling a bit lackluster, but maybe that’s just because you haven’t tried anything new lately! Writing prompts can be a great source of inspiration to help you refocus your writing when you start to lose steam.
You also don’t need to work on the same thing every time you sit down to write. If your current project is too intimidating or unexciting, you can always take a prompt, or some idea that’s been floating around in your head, and go with that instead. An hour of writing about something random is still better than no writing at all — and it may even turn into your next big project.
If you’re really at a loss for inspiration and motivation, you might also consider entering a writing contest. Writing contests are one of the best resources for struggling writers: not only do they provide a prompt and a deadline, but they also drive you forward by offering a potential reward! Giving yourself a concrete goal like winning a contest is a fantastic way to get your writing schedule on track and help you stay productive.
So there you have it: the when, where, and how of building a productive writing routine. The only thing left is to get going! We believe in you.
This week’s guest post was brought to you by Savannah Cordova. Savannah is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. You can read more of her work on the Reedsy blog.