As a writer, you know that if you want to get any writing done on a regular basis, a writing routine is in order. As much as we would love to sit down at our writing workspaces only when we are feeling a burst of inspiration, that’s a good way to miss deadlines and let projects stagnate.
But what should we do when we feel like it’s our routine that’s stagnating? What if your writing routine is something that you drag yourself through as just one more of your daily obligations?
Maybe you’re not enjoying your hour of writing at the coffee shop as much as you used to, or you find yourself glancing at the clock after every few sentences you get down. These are not the circumstances that foster productive, creative writing time.
Luckily, there’s much that you can do about that. I have four tips for livening up your boring writing routine.
First, let’s find out why we are so prone to getting bored with routine in the first place.
According to Science Focus.com, “natural selection favours individuals with the capacity to feel bored because they are more likely to act to improve their survival chances. […] Contentment leads to complacency.” Basically, we stop being stimulated by experiences that we have regularly so we can keep an eye out for any new dangers or opportunities.
If you’ve been feeling guilty about your lack of interest in daily routines, rest easy—you were built to feel bored.
The thing is, though, boredom doesn’t really help us in the same way today. The survival chances of a writer are much better if they have a regular routine that they stick to, and I mean this in both the “surviving as a writer” sense and the “surviving in general” sense. After all, regular work means having enough food and reliable housing.
So, in order to carve out a living as a writer, you need to resist your natural response to daily repetition. Here’s how to do it.
What takes up the bulk of your writing time? I’m willing to bet that you’re not always working on something that you’re totally enthusiastic about.
Writing might be one of the greatest joys in life, but let’s face it, it’s also work. And when you’re caught in the day-to-day grind of writing to make a living, it’s easy to forget that you’re doing this because you love it. Enter the passion project.
Working on your passion project is the fun part of writing, so including it in the daily writing routine ensures that there is always something to get excited about, even if the rest of the work isn’t as much fun.
That novel idea you’ve had in the back of your mind for years? Get started! Got an ambitious, research-heavy series of blog posts you’d love to write? Now’s the time.
Set aside a section of your writing routine to focus on a project that excites you. If it’ll get you to your desk and stoked on writing, work on your passion project first. Or, if you need something to look forward to for motivation, let it be an end-of-routine treat.
Either way, adding a little passion to your writing routine will go a long way toward making writing fun again.
Routine can help foster a sense of purpose, so make sure you know what that purpose is. Working on your writing with medium- and long-term goals in mind will deflect that feeling of running on a hamster wheel that routine can sometimes create.
Figure out what your writing goals are and what you need to do to meet them, and write that down. Then, create your routine with your goal in mind.
Knowing that there is a reason behind what you’re doing should infuse your routine with new energy and motivation.
Perhaps it’s a career goal that you’re working toward, or even something like a vacation. Maybe you just want to improve your writing or start entering contests. Whatever your motivation is, sit down each day with this goal in mind, and your work will start to seem like stepping stones rather than part of a daily slog.
Whether or not you binge-watched “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” this winter like the rest of us, I’m sure you’ve heard the idea that if something doesn’t “spark joy,” you should get rid of it.
While perhaps not the most practical advice for things like toilet brushes and taxes, this frame of mind can help reboot a writing routine that’s lost its luster.
If a part of the routine isn’t bringing you joy, change it!
If you’re not looking forward to sitting down at your desk at home, perhaps a brisk walk to a nearby coffee shop or library is the change that you need to feel revitalized. If you’re doing the heavy lifting as soon as you sit down, try warming up with a lighter activity, like coming up with possible future post ideas.
Not only does trying new things help you figure out what works for you, changing it up can be enough to prevent you from falling into the routine complacency that our minds are prone to.
But most of all, you should remember that if you’re dreading your routine, or part of it, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You’re in charge. Switch it up, ditch what doesn’t work, find your joy.
There’s a difference between routine and ritual—routine can feel like an obligation, whereas ritual is something that you do for just you.
You probably already have some favorite daily rituals, like making yourself a hot drink or sitting down with a book before bed. Technically, these are routines, but routines that you do because you want to, not because you have to or think that you should.
Including more of these rituals in your writing routine can prevent it from becoming boring. Your writing routine can be your happy place, and including joy-making rituals will help it get there.
Routine isn’t about forcing ourselves to fit into an unnatural schedule; it’s about giving ourselves guidelines to meet our goals and become our best selves. You shouldn’t feel constrained by your routine, but rather like it’s guiding you along the path to writing success.
There’s lots to be done—rethink your goals, find an exciting project, switch up your routine, and make sure you include rituals just for you. If you’re resenting your routine, it just means you haven’t crafted the perfect routine for you yet.
As someone whose childhood was spent having books pried away from her at the dinner table, a future working with words was almost inevitable. Giselle has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Calgary, and has worked as a writer/copyeditor for a newspaper, freelance proofreader/editor/writer, and piano teacher. She splits her time between Mexico City and Calgary, Alberta and always has her eye out for adventure, whether that be backpacking in the Rocky Mountains or picking up a new instrument. Giselle is a content editor for Craft Your Content.