The Right Way to Write

The Perfect Writing Routine
After several years of newspaper reporting and a couple years of almost full-time fiction writing, I have finally perfected the right writing routine, one that balances sanity and productivity and allows me to fulfill my responsibilities and still remain creative. Would you like to know about this perfect writing routine? It’s quite simple:

  1. Get up early, at about seven a.m., to go for a run or go to the gym.
  2. Come home and shower at about eight, eat a well-rounded breakfast, drink some tea, check your email, and settle in at your well-organized desk. (Where you probably should have some sort of bulletin board of inspiring images and to-do lists and quotes from your heroes.)
  3. Turn on your ideal book-writing soundtrack, which you devised during the initial planning process.
  4. Pull out the perfect outline (made the previous night: see step 7 &8), and write according to its plan.
  5. Write until noonish.
  6. Lunch break!
  7. Write some more.
  8. By four o’clock, you’ve been writing for at least six hours. If you’re satisfied with your word count, which you should be after all this distraction-free working, put aside what you’ve written for the day, and think about what you’d like to accomplish tomorrow.
  9. Write out your perfect outline for tomorrow.
  10. At 5 or 5:30, stop working, and start cooking the perfect dinner.
  11. Enjoy the perfect dinner with your family, and then spend quality time with them or perhaps reading your favorite book and enjoying a glass of expensive wine before bed.
  12. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and do it all again tomorrow.

See? Perfect, right?

But that is not how I work, unless I’m having a fit of efficiency. I said I’d devised this perfect plan: that does not mean I adhere to it. I get productive self-improvement fits maybe once every other month, and they last about four days before I become exhausted and start trying to serve cold cereal as the perfect dinner.

How I Actually Work
I am actually capable of great productivity, but I’m rather an eccentric worker, especially when it comes to schedules. Here is what my “ritual” actually looks like:

  1. Get up at 9, then mope around because it’s before 10 and I hate mornings. Moping usually includes at least one cup of tea, some toast, and pictures of LOL Cats.
  2. Drag myself to the gym, then drag myself back home for a shower, complaining the whole time.
  3. Write my blog post for the day.
  4. Start pulling out novel-notes, try to select the perfect writing music, get distracted by an email, and then realize it’s just about time for lunch.
  5. Eat lunch, usually accompanied with watching an episode of some TV show I’ve already seen.
  6. Browse the internet.
  7. Realize it’s after 1 p.m., and it’s time to get to work if I actually want to get anything done. Sit down on the couch with the laptop to write.
  8. Realize I have nothing to drink, and head to the kitchen for liquid refreshment of some sort. I must have a drink to write. This can be water, tea, more tea, or, if it’s late in the day, a glass of wine.
  9. Return to the couch to get to work.
  10. Fiddle with sunlamp until it’s shining perfectly across my face. This is difficult because I have to balance it on the arm of the couch, and I inevitably trip over the cord at least once a day when I’m going to or returning from the kitchen with yet another beverage.
  11. Work until about four, then work a little harder because the business day is almost done.
  12. Stop at around 5 for dinner, family time, et cetera.
  13. Realize my back hurts, and gripe at myself for working on the couch and not at my work table. Make mental note to clean work table tonight so I can work there tomorrow.
  14. After an episode or two of something, forget about note to clean work table and instead sit down to work again at 8 or 9, and then work till I feel too frazzled to work any longer, usually around 11 or, if I’m feeling very productive, midnight.
  15. Realize that it’s midnight and I still haven’t gotten ready for bed. Rush around to get ready, and then crawl into bed.
  16. Read until way too late.
  17. Sleep, then wake up the next morning to repeat, cranky that I stayed up so late.

And there you have it. The daily habits of an inefficient night-owl writer. I have a few habits (like the incessant need for water or tea, or the ineffectual use of the sunlamp) that remind me of a dog turning in circles before lying down in its bed: they really accomplish nothing, but they sure make me feel better about eventually meeting my goal.

I suggest you follow the earlier, perfect routine… unless it drives you, like me, to drinking ridiculous amounts of tea and lots of nervous eye-twitching. In that case, I suggest that you, too, devise your own inefficient and perfectly comfy writing ritual.

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9 thoughts on “The Right Way to Write

    1. Kristin McFarland

      Believe me, I still seem more efficient in this post than I actually am. I’m constantly distracted by cute or shiny things.

  1. Claudia Lefeve

    LOL When I read the first half of the post, I was like “Ugh, Kristin is so motivated!” But then I got to your REAL routine substitute tea for coffee and you’ve got my daily writing routine (oh, and no gym for me).

    1. Kristin McFarland

      LOL Yeah, definitely not that motivated. I would be if I could keep it up, but it leads to eye-twitching and self-loathing tears.

  2. Haha, I was jaw-droppingly jealous at your first routine (except I think you meant you want to wake up at seven AM, not PM ;)). Your second routine sounds a LOT like mine! Including the sunlamp freakout. 😀

    1. Kristin McFarland

      It’s funny how many writers are into sunlamps… I guess it’s because we’re pretty indoor-only creatures, at least while we’re working. I wish I could be one of those people who record themselves “writing” while taking a walk, because then I’d get loads of sunshine and exercise, but I *hate* transcribing.

  3. Oh! I have to constantly battle the urge to read until wee-hours. I often fail to win that ongoing civil war with myself and feel quite wretched the next morning. I don’t workout often until 8 – 9pm, and that jump starts my nightly writing/reading energy. But…it’s what I have to do if I’m to fit it in!

    1. Kristin McFarland

      That’s a good idea… My fiance is always telling me to just use my night-owl tendencies, and work out and write at night because that’s when I naturally feel like doing those things, but then our schedules get completely out of sync.

  4. I remember running across this blog that unless you got up at 5:30 in the morning to write, it didn’t count as “real” writing. Most bizarre thing. Everyone has their own energy levels and body clocks. I could never write early in the morning — my muse takes a while to wake up.

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