Does Your Routine for Writing Ever Get Thrown Off?

writing in journalMy guess is that this does happen to you because it happens to most of us. Despite our best efforts to write or create (if you’re another type of artist) every day, there are times when our routine for writing or creating gets hijacked by work, family, life, or some unforeseen circumstance.

This happened to me yesterday after an AMAZING writing streak. Things were going incredibly well. I exceeded the daily word counts I set for my blog and my nonfiction book. And my novel—you know, the one that I have been struggling with for the past seven years—is practically writing itself.

So What Happened?

Yesterday, which was a Saturday morning, I met a friend for coffee. We had been trying to schedule time to be together for months. She is one of my best friends in Milwaukee, and I was really missing her. So, when she suggested that we meet for coffee on a Saturday morning, I jumped at the chance.

The only problem? I NEVER schedule things for Saturday mornings. I have a demanding full-time job, and because my Saturday mornings are very precious, I discovered that I need to work to protect them. They are the mornings when I get to sleep in a little (though I rarely sleep too late anymore because I am too KEYED UP to write and get my day going), drink gobs of coffee (albeit at a leisurely pace), and create until my heart is content.

My Normal Routine

Saturday mornings, I work on my blog (I typically write 1000 words), my nonfiction books in progress, and I write my novel longhand. I work from 7 – 11 am on one or all of these things, depending on what needs to be done and what is calling to me. I then take a break to walk the half-mile to my local co-op, drink some more coffee, and have a light lunch while I continue my writing routine. During the summer months, I change this up. I walk through the farmers’ market two blocks from my house that is active late June through early October and then continue my writing routine at Anodyne’s, a local coffee shop a couple of blocks from my house.

My husband and I are very fortunate to live near Lake Michigan, and starting in late June, the South Shore Farmers’ Market brings in local vendors to sell fresh produce. In typical Wisconsin fashion, local businesses also sell cheese curds, sausage, and pastries. No matter what you have a taste for—healthy, savory, or sweet—the South Shore Farmers’ Market has it covered!

South Shore Farmers Market

Why My Saturday Morning Routine Is Important

The break to either walk to my co-op or visit the market is key to my writing success. Saturdays are the most work-intensive day of the week that I take on as a writer. After my 11am break, I hit it hard again, completing my word counts on all projects. I typically write between six and eight hours on a Saturday.

After working for four hours, the walk to either the co-op or through the farmers’ market helps me to get up and stretch my legs and clear my head. It also affords me the opportunity to taste, savor, and take in all sorts of images, a process that is extremely important if writing or creating for long stretches of time.

Failing to Find Momentum

Fixing problem on websiteWhen I broke from my normal Saturday morning routine yesterday to meet a friend for coffee, I just never got back into the swing of writing. By the time I got home, it was nearly noon. The vendors at the South Shore Farmers’ Market were packing up and going home. I headed upstairs and attempted to write, but I got distracted with a design flaw on my WordPress website and decided to research how to fix it. This, of course, took WAY LONGER than I ever imagined it would (like the whole day), and after dealing with tech issues that made me want to tear my hair out, I was exhausted and needed a break.

I finally ate lunch at 3pm, and not having gotten a walk in, I was feeling sluggish. So my husband and I decided to head to the Brady Street Festival, one of the many annual summer festivals in Milwaukee. I figured, if anything, I’d get some exercise walking around and take in the sights, smells, and sounds that I could infuse into my fiction.

We drove downtown towards Brady Street but discovered that a ton of people in Milwaukee had the same bright idea that we did. Since Germanfest was also taking place a half-mile to the south, we couldn’t find any street parking whatsoever. After driving around for a half-hour, we decided to head home.

I Attempt to Write Once More…But the Words Don’t Come

By the time we got home, it was early evening. I had not gotten in my walk, and I was not feeling inspired. I sat my butt down, though, and got going. Despite my efforts, the words did not flow easily. Every writer knows that is going to happen. As writers and artists, we all have our good days and our bad ones, just like anyone else in any other profession.

Even so, I feel like I made it a lot harder on myself yesterday. In my attempt to continue my productive streak, I did not create the conditions that my inner writer needs to write well. I needed to get my body moving, and I needed to take in some images. A walk to the lake to watch kids skimming rocks across the water or chatting with a local fisherman would have certainly set me up for success.

Bride and groom on beachSouth Shore Park also has a pavilion, and on Saturday nights during the summer, there is typically a wedding reception. As I walk past, in the matter of a few seconds, I can take in a ton of images: the bride and groom getting their photos taken, a frantic parent chasing after an overly exuberant flower girl who clearly missed nap time and somehow managed to subsist on sweets and wedding cake for most of the day, a couple of sweaty groomsmen loosening their collars and shedding their cummerbunds.

None of these specific images necessarily end up in my stories, blog posts, or books. On occasion, they do. More often then not, they get me out of a cerebral place and rooted in the moment. They give me the opportunity to observe other humans who provide endless possibilities for ideas and stories.

What I Learned

While I certainly do not regret meeting my friend, in the future, I will come up with a plan to get back into my routine if I ever decide to break from it. I will also do a better job of guarding my Saturday mornings. Maybe Saturday afternoon would have worked for my friend to meet up, but I didn’t ask because I didn’t realize that a break in my routine would be so problematic.

I have determined that on Saturday mornings, I write. That’s it. I won’t allow myself to get distracted, and if there is an alternate date to meet a friend or help a relative, I will propose one before giving up my most productive time slot.

I would love to know if this has happened to you as well. What is your writing, creating, or blogging routine like? If you need to break from it, can you get back to work easily or do you struggle? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

6 Replies to “Does Your Routine for Writing Ever Get Thrown Off?”

  1. Thanks for sharing your insight! I’ve often run into the same problem…where I have “dedicated” time for writing, and then something comes ups. You never quite recover.

    I’m working with my family and friends to make sure they know how important my time is when I am working. And that interruptions should only come if there is an emergency.

    Thankfully, for my day job I work from home and come mostly control my hours. Right now I am trying to block out from 6am – 10am for nothing but writing 5 days a week. The week is for family and taking care of things around the house.

    Anyway, enjoyed readying your post. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Making sure that your family and friends know how important writing is to you is an important step to protecting your time. I admire your dedication to block out four hours each day for writing! There is no doubt that with your level of dedication, good things are in store for you.

  2. Hi Laura, what an interesting post. I totally empathise with your situation and have the same problem regularly!

    I set several intervals throughout the weeks which I dedicate to ‘everything blog related’. Whether it be writing, images, design, research or whatever. I like to make sure that this is deep work time with NO distractions.

    Yet there’s always that friend who wants to do something coinciding with my blog time. And, alas, it’s the only FREE time they have.

    I’ll usually go and meet the friend. But I totally get you, getting back into the routine is hard – nigh on impossible for me. Are we brutal and just tell the friend that we have other things to do? One of those life dilemmas that I’m sure each individual has a different answer to!

    1. Stephen, You’re absolutely right, and you’ve articulated well that this is one of the hard choices we face as writers and creatives. We need time to create but we must also say yes to life. 

      I like your solution to dedicate several intervals each week to your blog. That way if you miss one session, everything doesn’t get thrown off. That’s a great piece of advice.

      Wishing you great success with your blog and continuing to manage your time well!

  3. Hey, great thoughts! I can only agree with on the importance of a routine. I neglected that for a long time…

    The day I realized it, I solved it by protecting some time slots from distractions, and everything started going smoother! That’s when I started to meet my writing goals effectively and without too much stress 🙂

    Now that I meet my daily goals, do you think I should up my game? I mean, I’m comfortable with my current goals, but I could easily write a bit more. Is there a risk to “burn” if I get too much into the goal logic?

    1. Hi PJ! Thanks for your comments. Yes, if you’re meeting your daily goals, you can certainly set a new goal to increase your output. I would say this, though: it’s important to avoid burnout. When I attempt to write for more than two hours at a stretch, my mind starts to get exhausted. I tend to work in sprints, though, so that’s my style.

      The trick is to figure out what works for you. As you set new goals for yourself, you monitor yourself and your progress to see if there is any point where you start to feel overwhelmed and burned out. If that starts to happen, you can scale back a little bit and find your happy medium between pushing yourself and avoiding burnout.

      Congrats on reaching your writing goals! Keep at it, and good things will be in store for yo.

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