Most writers have a routine they like to follow, and bless your heart if you suggest changing it. Maybe you like to curl up on the couch with a notepad and pencil, or perhaps you have worn your imprint into the best seat at a coffee shop (you know the one: right next to an outlet, a table, and a window). Every now and then, though, it does the writer’s soul good to evaluate if your writing process is really working you, and find some easy solutions to shake it up a bit.
1.) What writing phase are you completing?
It is no surprise that the different stages of the writing process require changes in environment. Brainstorming plots, characters, themes, or hooks are best accomplished in the face of inspiration. That often happens in a park or a café where you can observe people. Revising or editing will probably require a more solitary space where your brain can focus on the grammatical minutiae at hand.
2.) How do you warm-up?
If you find yourself racing to your idea book right after your daily run, then I think you know the answer. Other people need the familiar sounds of their coffee maker first thing in the morning to spark their creativity. Think about when you find yourself struck with those serendipitous ideas, and use these routines to your advantage. Make time around these activities to write—not just jot down, but actually write. Incorporate them into your writing process; after all, good writing starts long before when the pen hits the paper.
3.) Do you like it noisy or quiet?
I absolutely cannot concentrate in a silent room. The silence becomes the loudest possible distraction, and I can’t keep a line of thought. What do you do if you like some noise, but dislike the distracting qualities of conversations, television, or music? Ambient noise, my friend. There are plenty of apps and websites to provide whatever sound will help you focus, whether it is ocean waves, thunderstorms, or just plain white noise. Try some out and see if they help you keep the good writing flowing.
4.) What does good writing smell like?
Ok, stay with me on this one. Scent is widely known as the sense that is most strongly linked with memories, but it is also the sense that we neglect when it comes to our writing routine. What is writing if not putting thoughts and memories into words? Find a soothing scent that makes you feel relaxed and creative, and use it as a cue to your brain that your writing routine has officially begun. Even better, choose a scent that is tuned in to what you are writing: the aroma of freshly cut grass for a coming-of-age novel set during a high school summer, or a musky floral for a book about a personal journey. Whether you use candles, essential oils, or simply sniff your favorite cologne, inspiration will come wafting in on the air.
5.) Are you old school or new school?
I used to keep this ratty old paperback style guide I had from college right next to me whenever I wrote. I’d start looking something up, but then simply do a quick online search instead (don’t look at me that way; I’m a product of my generation). Eventually, I realized that everything I needed was just a click away, and as soon as I embraced that, my routine was shorter and easier. You would be surprised what help you can find in the form of websites and desktop apps now, as I discussed in a past blog post.
Every routine needs a little stir once in a while to keep your writing place your happy place. Some of us are classic, sitting at a desk with a coffee and a notepad, and others are quirky, pulling on our favorite lucky socks before every writing session. What are the routines or writing process steps you use to set the scene?