As a mother, teacher, writer, freelancer and warrior of life, my daily life is usually quite regimented, structured and packed out with jobs and things I have to do. Time for the “want to dos” is very limited and, unfortunately, writing for pleasure falls into that category.
Having recently spoken at an online event about my work, my stories and lifelong passion for writing, I was encouraging women to write as part of a simple form of self-care and to look after their mental health. I also emphasised that there was no right or wrong way to write, to journal or to keep a diary. That’s the beauty of writing. It is personal and it is powerful. It has impact.
Whether you are writing for yourself or for others, getting into and sticking to a routine is a difficult endeavour.
Once you are set to write, however, it doesn’t matter how, when and where you do it. Like writing itself, it’s a personal preference and it has to work for you.
Julia Cameron encourages morning pages; Elif Shafak mentions in her Novel Black Milk that she likes to write engulfed in lots of background noise — the louder, the better — whereas the novelist Adalet Agaoglu prefers writing in complete silence. Glennon Doyle, on the other hand, writes in a little cupboard next to her office, because she used to write in her closet.
We are all different.
Personally, I need silence like Adalet Agaoglu, and could do with my own little office. Since, however, I completed my degree whilst mostly sitting on a bed, I can write pretty much anywhere, as long as I can shut everything else out.
So, what are some of my tips for a good writing routine? Here are 5 of my thoughts:
- The clue is in the name: writing routine. Unless you turn up regularly, whether that is once a week, twice a week or every day, it’s not a routine. Write often and it will become like second nature to you. Write even when you don’t feel like it. It’s better to write a little than nothing at all, and, like with exercise, you will feel better for it afterwards.
- Consider when you are most likely to have the time and energy to focus on your writing. Personally, I am not a morning person, so planning to write first thing in the morning is unrealistic and unproductive for me (sorry Julia Cameron). I write best during the day or (late) in the evenings, so that is when I carve out time for writing. In order to find your optimum time, it is a good idea to first experiment by writing at different times of the day.
- Your writing space needs to be comfortable and in an environment where you can lose yourself in writing. You’re not going to write a lot if your back aches, your neck is crooked or you can’t feel your elbow after a while. Equally, if you, like me, need silence to write, having your home office in your kids’ playroom will most likely leave you more frustrated than satisfied. Create the ideal writing space for yourself, and guard it. It’s your escape, you’re entitled to it.
- If you are writing by hand, make writing a fun and an enjoyable experience. Treat yourself to a beautiful notebook and some decent writing pens (those with soft tips are best). An awkward pen that makes you press down too hard will make your wrist ache not long after your first few sentences. Equally, a dull notebook may end up collecting dust because you can’t be bothered to pick it up.
If you are writing on a laptop, use documents that automatically save and back up your work (Google Docs or use a cloud space that saves your work automatically). There is nothing more frustrating than being on a writing-roll and suddenly, with one fateful click, losing all your work.
- Have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously. As soon as you turn it into a competition with yourself or compare yourself to others, writing, in whichever shape or form you practise it, will not be enjoyable anymore. You are unique, as is your writing, your needs around writing and your writing routine. Acknowledge and embrace it and just let those words flow.
I hope that those pointers have given you some food for thought and a little nudge to pick up a pen or open your notebook or laptop. In today’s world we write more than we ever have before, but not enough of this writing is for our own fun or well-being.
Writing is a wonderful and effective, yet private and quiet form of self-care, and one that is not to be under-estimated. Give it a go, stick with it for a while, and see where it takes you.
If you have any writing tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts.
Happy writing people. Those words are all yours.