Routines destroy productivity when they become fixed rituals—especially if you want to write while working at another full-time career. If you need to have the right chair, the right work space, computer, or the perfect software program, then you’ve restricted your options to write until those times that the stars and planets align and provide you with the perfect environment.
Do you need everything perfect in order to write? Does it require a distraction-free environment? I wrote this post sitting on a metal bleacher in the loft section of a local gymnastics center while my son and other kids practiced down below. It’s hot. It’s noisy. A fan on one side adds to the noise and does little to address the heat in this warehouse building. None of that matters because I had a busy day at work and little time to write. If I’m going to get my words written today, then I need to take advantage of the time I have to write.
Today I meet my writing targets (even though my son is bouncing and having trouble following the coach’s instructions).
Are you the kind of writer that meets their targets?
Every day we do things that we wouldn’t think of missing. Do you brush your teeth? Manage to put on clothes each day? Maybe you always comb your hair? Show up to work on time. Remain professional at work, doing the job that you were hired to do.
If those things are true, shouldn’t it also be true of your writing?
Do you call in to work with an excuse like this? “I don’t feel like working today. My chair isn’t quite right. Plus I couldn’t find my coffee mug, the pug mug I like. Just not a good day to work.”
If you’ve decided that you’re the kind of writer that meets targets, then do that. Don’t make excuses.
I’m focusing on process these days, not deadlines. I posted previously about not using your computer to write. I also set up a Scrivener writing computer. I ran into a problem with that because it lacks available space to run Windows updates. That’s even with everything else stripped off the computer. I tried doing a clean install, and that failed too. Rather than spend more time on it at the moment, I’ve switched to using my Chromebook again along with Novlr.
My process is simple. Write at least 500 words per day, 10,000 words per month. The main thing: Don’t miss a day.
My longest streak in the past was around 400 days. I plan to beat that now.
Which means I need to adapt to changes. The Scrivener laptop didn’t work out. I may spend some time to get that fixed at some point—I’m not waiting to fix it before working on my streak. I want to move forward with my projects.
Routines can serve us and help with productivity as long as they aren’t tied to factors that limit our efforts. Establish routines that open opportunities for writing. That could be as simple as taking a notebook and pen with you and using it to write when you have a spare few minutes. Become a writer that always has something to write with, who writes when there is an opportunity to write. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have your ideal workstation and computer—just don’t let that ideal define you and limit you.
Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.