Writing Routines: Rethinking What Works

An old-fashioned alarm clock is pictured on the right side of the picture and the post title, Writing Routines: Rethinking What Works is on the left.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Routines are wonderful–until they’re not.

I’m a very routine-driven writer. Actually, I’m routine-driven, period.  I’m a lot more productive when I can keep my malfunctioning brain out of my process…if I run on automatic pilot.

I think my changing routines will resonate with any writing parents.

When I had small children, my routine was to write while my son was in elementary school and my daughter was either watching Elmo’s World (she’d only watch 5 minutes of television) or napping.  I’d get my daughter settled and then open up my laptop.

This worked well–until it didn’t.  My daughter stopped taking naps, but she started with preschool. I could write (and do a million other things) while she was in school.

That, naturally, didn’t stay the routine for very long.  Before I knew it, both of my children were in school and I was fitting in writing and editing and building an online platform for myself in between carpools and errands and other things.

Soon they were in different schools with different hours of operation. This meant a couple of different carpools.  I learned to write while in carpool lines.

When they grew older and got up very early for school (the high school late bell is 7:20), I got up an hour before they did to work while the day was still fresh and full of possibilities.  I found that, sometimes, days could be knocked dramatically off-course as the day went on.

We got a new corgi puppy on Friday. :)  I have a feeling that, once again, my morning routines are going to be changing.

A tri-color corgi puppy named Finn who belongs to author Elizabeth Spann Craig.

The point is that it’s good to evaluate what works every now and then. I used to think very self-limiting things: I can only work well in the mornings. But then I found the more flexible I could be with my schedule and my writing, the more I could get accomplished.

Over the years, I’ve asked myself:

Besides first thing in the morning (which always works for me), when else can I fit in writing time?

Am I too distracted at home?  If so, is the library or a coffee shop better?

If I write later in the day, how does it go? Is it a good or a bad draft?

Do you ever change up what works? Has anyone else had dramatic changes in what works for them?

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Photo credit: Βethan via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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32 thoughts on “Writing Routines: Rethinking What Works

  1. Ah I know what you mean. I used to be able to write in my commute to work and home until I couldn’t any more. I could write at night until that changed. I’m kind of struggling to find my new writing time but I need to keep looking!

  2. Your routine is about to be wildly thrown off now. Cute pup!
    I’ve always written in the evening but that doesn’t work as well now since I’m so tired. Must have to do with getting older.

    1. I can *occasionally* work later at night, but it’s usually pretty flat writing. Much livelier in the mornings or early afternoon.

      Yes, the routine is all over the place today, ha!

  3. With a new puppy (who is so cute), your routine is definitely going to change. I like routines too. It keeps me focused. But as life changes, we have to change with it. Good luck with your new change.

  4. Awww…what an adorable puppy, Elizabeth! How’s he settling in? As to your larger point…I think it really is useful to re-evaluate routines, especially after a major change, like kids moving away, a new home, or something like that. I think we change as we get older, too, and the same things that did work…don’t. I find I sometimes even have to tweak my routine as the seasons (or what passes for them where I live) change.

    1. Well, he’s sleeping through the night great (3 nights in a row…11-12 hours each), so I really can’t complain! We’re working on the housetraining. My college kid comes home this week and maybe he can lend me a hand during the days!

      I think you’re right…it’s not just the routines and circumstances that change, *we* change, too.

  5. I can definitely understand that since when I’m in school I write in between classes, and when I work during the weekends I write before, after or even during work. I write when I can. It’s different during the summer without school, and I can write Monday through Thursday, and in between work shifts during the weekend. Things can change easily.

    1. Things do change easily, don’t they?

      Isn’t it funny how school can provide structure (even for the one who isn’t in school)? In the summers I’ve always had to rethink my schedule. Now that my kids are so much older (college and high school), it’s a little less structured. So I have to create my own structure.

  6. I started writing after dinner when I was homeschooling my daughter. I’d be available all day for her and then she knew after dinner I was off limits unless it was a dire emergency. She graduated 6 years ago and I’m still doing most of my writing/editing work at night because that’s what I’m comfortable with. I do marketing stuff in the mornings – because by afternoon, I don’t have the patience. And when I’m working on edit notes, I do it throughout the day because I do that with my Kindle and a notepad in the living room. I could up my output by squeezing in more here and there, but every time I do, I burn out.

    You’re a brave woman to get a new puppy. I couldn’t even imagine getting an adult dog right now.

    1. Those routines can be hard to shake, even when circumstances change!

      Interesting about your editing. That’s true for me, too–I can edit even late at night. But I’m definitely not as *creative* then.

      Brave or stupid, ha! At least my college kid is coming home this week and my daughter will be out of school in another month. They have more energy than I do. We have an in-home dog trainer, which is helping, too.

  7. Aww, what a cute puppy! I hear corgis are very smart and need mental stimulation, so you’re going to be busy.

    For me, it depends on which writing task is going on. Writing/re-writing can be done in snatches, but researching and plotting…I need chunks of quiet time for those. Whatever works to get it done.

    I am always amazed at how much you accomplish, Elizabeth! Hope you get some sleep. *wink*

    1. Oh, he’s wily! There are moments when I suspect he’s brighter than I am. :)

      Plotting is good in long chunks of time for me, too. Maybe it’s because I lose the thread of thought if I take breaks from it? Whereas for my writing, I can work in 10 minute increments and come back to it later and never miss a beat.

      The sleeping has been good so far! It’s just the potty training that’s tough. :) I’ve spent sooo much time outside the last couple of days. I should just set up a writing station there.

  8. The puppy is a heart-melter, Elizabeth! Corgis are adorable.

    I started writing seriously by getting up two hours earlier than anyone else, and my writing time gradually expanded to noon and later. My family realized I was on to something , so they were happy to get out of my way ;)

    I’ll find out this afternoon if the doc wants me to go back on a medication that might screw up my circadian rhythm. Keeping everything crossed that it doesn’t, as I love my morning routine. And hoping it doesn’t screw up my writing–unless, of course, it makes my writing better. I’ll happily write in the middle of the night if that’s the case.

    1. Good luck with the doctor visit! It sounds like you’re like me…medications, even OTC, do a number on me. Sudafed makes me so hyper that I can’t even sleep. Fingers crossed that your new meds won’t mess with your routines at all.

  9. Hi Elizabeth – I can adapt, though I am a morning person – always have been … except for squash matches and games etc … Also fortunately I tend to be flexible … but I need to settle into a routine – if my life would allow me … I admire how you do it all – but I guess once you’re organised and in that mode – then it all comes together … I must get there: I will. Your puppy looks quite adorable – lovely cheery face – Cheers Hilary

  10. You KNOW I love your new puppy and want to kiss his little face. So cute. I write best early morning–like 5-7. My brain is at it’s best then. Too bad I don’t live closer, Millie could show Finn the ropes of being a good little dog, well, mostly. :)

  11. I miss my happy, stubborn Corgi. He could be such an immovable object. I write best in the afternoon. No amount of coffee could get my fingers moving early in the morning, although when my kids were home I’d write while they were at school

  12. What a cutie! I write in the morning before the world intervenes. Thank you for another wonderful newsletter Elizabeth. I love them. Great cover release :) Loving your brand. Have a lovely week.

  13. Finn is adorable! :)

    My life is wacky enough that I never really get into a routine. I’d prefer to write in the morning, but that generally isn’t possible as I’m up and going at 5:30 and any earlier would drive me nuts! It’s usually late evenings before I can write and that’s definitely not my best time.

  14. Love the pup. I’ve always done my writing at night after everyone else is asleep. I’m nocturnal by nature so that worked. But lately I’ve noticed I may be wide awake at night but I’m not productive. So I’m trying to force myself to go to bed/get up early and write in the morning. We’ll see what happens.

    Good luck developing a new routine around Finn.

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