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Why Writing Routines Suck

Why Writing Routines Suck

mindset motivation writing skills Dec 19, 2023

If you don’t write every day, you don’t deserve to call yourself a writer.’ We’ve all heard that, haven’t we? We log onto our writergram accounts and see other writers posting their daily word counts. We log onto facebook and see ads promising to teach us how to write 2,000 words every single day, or how to finish our book in ONE MONTH!!!

To this I say… What the hell is the rush about? What ever happened to taking things at a normal pace? What is it about hustle culture that makes us all think we either have to run 100 miles an hour or feel like a complete failure?

 

 

I run a coaching program that usually lasts between 4-6 months, and the goal is to write your first full draft, or at least a pretty big chunk of it. But I do consider this an intensive program and I advertise it as such, because it is. It requires you to consistently produce 5,000-10,000 words every single week, and that is not something every writer can do. Nor should they.

I coach at that pace, but I do not write at that pace.

I took a little over a year to finish the first draft of my most recent project. I’m gonna be honest here, I had SO MANY moments where I thought I could just push through a certain month and write a whopping 20,000 words. If my clients can do it, why shouldn’t I? It never really happened though, no matter how hard I pushed.

Why? It just wasn’t my pace.

I think that’s the key to a really good relationship between an author and their work—knowing the pace at which they can work without burning out, and then pushing it just a little.

 

Writing routines are not for everyone

I say this so often because the amount of writers that slide into my DMs on the regular asking me if they’re a bad writer just because they can’t stick to a writing routine actually pains me. NO. Repeat after me: That does not make you a bad writer!

I don’t know at what point it was collectively decided that having a routine is the only sustainable way to finish a project.

ALSO: Breaking Down Writer’s Block

The truth is: it’s just not how most people work. Some do! And that’s great for them. If someone has the ability (and sometimes, the privilege) to carve out an hour every single day to sit down, focus, and write, then I’m so happy for them. But for most people, this is just not realistic.

For the large majority of writers, writing is not their only focus. They have full-time jobs, studies, school, part-time jobs, children, or people to care for. Maybe even all of the above. And so many struggle with mental health issues, such as ADHD, which can make any routine extremely difficult to keep up with.

ALSO: ​​Raising Good People and Writing Good Books

What can we do then, to make writing our projects not take half our lives? What’s a realistic timeline to write a full novel inside of, if not the one-month method I see this blonde Karen shouting about every time I open my Facebook app? (No doubt, the trick up her sleeve is AI! But let’s leave that rant to another blog post.)

To me, a realistic timeline looks different for every person, and even every client that I take on. But I would say that a nice sweet spot is between 1-2 years per project. It’s achievable, if a little challenging for some of us with very busy lives.

 

Why forcing a routine can kill your project

You’ve read thus far and you’ve probably come to understand that you’re just not a routine kind of person. But you’ve heard that routines work for other people and you really want to be one of them.

Please, do not force a routine that you know you won’t keep. This is just screaming self-sabotage. It’s like walking straight into a trap with your eyes wide open.

What’s going to happen when you force yourself to write every day is that you will inevitably miss a day. And then another. And then you’re going to hate yourself for it. 

Am I really that weak? I can’t even write for five days straight. I don’t deserve to call myself a writer. Those are the kinds of thoughts that will start running through your head. And once they do, that is when writing (at all) will become just about the most difficult thing in the world for you. No matter how much pressure you take off.

ALSO: The Part-Time Writing Schedule

There is so much to be said about simply finding a pace that feels comfortable to you, and being happy with it. It’ll make your writing sessions so much more enjoyable. A lot of people are going to try to tell you that writing should be painful and dreadful, and a gruelling process. Don’t listen to them. How it feels is entirely up to you.

 

How to make finishing your novel easier

There are methods you can use to make things easier for yourself in terms of how long it takes you to reach that end point.

The first one is outlining. 

Teaching yourself how to structure a story before you blindly dive into writing your book is going to save you so much time. Most writers who do not take that extra time to learn how to outline and structure their projects end up getting stuck about a quarter of the way through (if they even make it that far!), or they write a first draft that is completely unusable and needs a full rewrite in order to be made sense of.

Another way that will massively improve your speed is support.

I’m a huge believer in asking people for help, and investing in feedback or 1:1 time with someone who knows what they’re doing and can give you about seventeen aha-moments in just an hour of their time. I do this both for my writing and for my business. 

I would not have grown to where I am right now so quickly if I hadn’t invested in coaches and mentors, or participated in courses and programs. I probably wouldn't have finished my novel so quickly either if I didn’t have two separate mentors for it! I would have gotten there eventually, for sure… But it would have taken me double the time, if not longer. And I believe time is much more valuable than money.

If you’re ready to get serious and realistic about your approach to writing, without swearing yourself to writing 2,000 words a day, I would highly recommend joining my online programme Novel Plotting Academy.

You get a massive course that’s designed to solve your outlining issues—most people who go through the academy only need to write one draft and refine it, instead of wasting years on rewrites to get their structure right. You also get that support aspect with a writer’s community and monthly Q&As where you can get feedback from me on any issue you come across while writing.

Right now is also the last chance to get this programme with lifetime access, as it will be switching to only 1-year-long access in the beginning of 2024. That means that if you join before the switch, you get that support for basically however long you want it. You get to ask questions about your writing whenever you’re unsure about anything and know you’re always getting answers from experts. And you can take that course and write completely at your own pace.

 


Char Anna

Char is the author of the writing guide ‘Finish Your First Novel’ and the founder of The Plottery. She’s been in the biz since 2021, and holds a BA in Film & Screenwriting as well as an MA in Creative Writing from Edinburgh Napier University.

Char resides in rainy Scotland with her pup Lavender (who is anything but calm, contrary to what her name suggests), and she writes darker fiction that focuses on unusual family dynamics and lots of queerness.

 

 

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