Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Writing Routines

Alright, today we're going to be looking at writing routines, which honestly is something that I struggle with.  That having been said, it's something important to do - and I am hoping that by writing this, it might help me set a better writing routine as well.

One thing to remember is that writing routines aren't set in stone - if you miss a day because you are ill, or because a friend invited you out, that's entirely alright.  This is just trying to get you writing.  If it doesn't always work, that's alright.  Don't get angry at yourself, just try and do some the next day.

There are a few different ways of setting goals.
* Time based
* Word count based
* SMART goals
There are probably a lot of others as well, but these are the ones I find helpful.

Time based - you decide you will write for a certain time: For example "I will write my blog entry between ten and ten thirty this evening".  You set aside that time for writing, and when it comes to that time, you write.  This can be effective for short things, like blog posts, but it is harder to control when you are writing longer pieces - you might find that you miss the start of your time, and then find no reason to actually write for the rest of it, leading to very little actually getting done.  If you can make yourself put aside distractions while you're writing, this might be good for you (if you're thinking of other things, try noting them down on a scrap of paper), but if you can't, then you might find that this method actually leads to less work rather than more.

Word count based - this is a much more concrete method than time based - you set a number of words to write (be it every day, or perhaps just on weekends), and then you get them written.  I find this helpful, but tend to choose quite a low initial goal - say 100 or 200 words.  That way, it's very easy to meet that even with a busy schedule and you aren't disheartened by repeatedly not meeting your goal.  Obviously, if you  have an entire day to write with nothing else to do, you can be a bit more ambitious.  I find this method useful because it provides the original spark to get you writing.  You start putting down words, and once you're 100 words in you may have forgotten about the fact you only need to put 100, because you're caught up in what you're writing.  Alternatively, if you really are struggling to get any words down, then being able to write 100 then tell yourself you've made a positive step for the day can help.

SMART Goals - this is where I start sounding like a conference or workplace seminar, but these are actually quite a good idea.  SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.  To un-jargonify it, goals that are clear, that show when they have been met, that you can meet, that you will want to meet, and have a time for doing it.
An example of a SMART goal would be: "I will write a blog post of at least 500 words between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight."  This kind of goal is useful because it is clear whether it has been met or not: unlike just saying "I will write between ten and ten thirty", it gives me something concrete that needs to exist at the end of it.  There is a requirement of what is needed (blog post, 500 words minimum), a time consideration, and as I have set it, it is something relevant to me.  It's a way of combining the other two methods.

Whichever goals you set, be prepared to fiddle around with them until they start to work for you.  You might find initially that they're too difficult or too easy, so just adjust them.  Don't beat yourself up if you can't meet your targets - that might just mean that they are too high.  At the same time, try writing at different times of day, and in different environments, until you find what works for you.

It can help to have big goals, and then to split them up using the SMART method:
Overall: "I will finish my novel by the end of October"
Medium: "By the 22nd of July I will have written the next four chapters"
Small scale: "Tonight, between seven and eight, aim to get 800 words written in the current project, finishing the scene I am working on."
From a big overwhelming thing that I would struggle to do, I have much smaller steps so I can assess progress, and actually get a sensation of reward when it is done.

My final piece of advice about writing routines? If it isn't your day job, it's important you fit it around your life.  Don't let failure to write leave you feeling crippled with guilt - sometimes you need the time off.  Just when you can, pick yourself up and carry on writing.  Dependent on circumstances, that might not be for a while, but that's okay.  You carry on developing your ideas in spare moments, and when you do find time to write, the words will be there.  Best of luck!

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