It’s good to have routines, like writing every day, exercising regularly, doing positive things on a schedule. Routines help us to get things done, stay healthy, keep us on task. The more often we do things the easier they become (usually) and the better we get at doing them. For example, writing every day keeps my skills sharp and helps me to develop as a storyteller.
The thing is, routines can also make us complacent. We know what to expect so we may not try as hard. Like exercising. If we do the same routine three days a week, week after week, we’ll eventually stop trying as hard. Same with writing. Sticking with what’s comfortable, what we’re good at, isn’t going to help us improve.
Using myself as an example, I write in my journal every day – or most every day – but I don’t always write at the same time of day and I don’t always write about the same topics. I used to write in it on a schedule. Every morning at five a.m. I was sitting at the dining room table writing about writing. In other words, I’d write about stories I was working on, ideas for new ones, problems I’d run into with a plot or an ending. After a while I found it harder to write. I went from scribbling out four pages down to two, then found I was struggling to even write one page.
So I started writing about other things, like my state of mind, things I was dealing with at the office, my relationships with my partner and my friends. That seemed to help and my entries grew longer. Then I tried writing at different times of day. Occasionally in the mornings, sometimes in the early afternoon, even right before going to bed. I found this gave me different perspectives on the events of the days and on other topics. In the mornings I was recalling the day before after a good night of sleep so my writing was more restrained and conservative. However, when writing in the afternoons the subject matter was fresher and my writing more colorful.
I’ve been trying that with my fiction, as well. I used to always write at specific times because, well, it seemed like the right thing to do. And it worked. I’ve been productive and written a fair number of short stories. But then I wondered if I could be more productive, and possibly more creative, if I started mixing up my routine and changing the times when I wrote.
Lo and Behold! It did make a difference. A good one. I’ve discovered that a little change in routine – time of day, location, state of mind – makes a big difference in how I write and what I write. I’m becoming more productive and working on multiple stories.
I won’t claim that this is the right thing for every writer, but it might be worth trying. Remember, routine is good. Writing, journaling, being creative every day keeps you sharp and will make you a better writer. But still, mix things up a bit with those routines. Don’t get so bogged down in doing the same things at the same times every day. Maybe write at a different time or different place. Sit on the patio, in another room, listen to a different playlist or drink a different type of tea.
A little change will do you good.