Develop a Writing Routine & Save Yourself from Writer's Block.
By Kris Windley
Okay...but why did you click the "Writers' Block" title, if that's working so well for you? Cause it's not working for you - that's why.
I know this, because that used to be my point of view too. I had no writing routine, because I didn't know I needed one. I was certain that my ability to write the good stuff happened in some sort Right-time, Right-place kind of way. I'd sit down to write, and sometimes the words just poured out! I had no control over it, and I had to protect the loosey-goosey "I'm CREATIVE" schtick with everything in me. Because it went with my tweed jacket or something.
So, I basically threw up my hands and left it to fate or the Muses or whatever to decide when I got real writing work done.
And I never finished projects.
I came up with brilliant ideas (if I do say so, myself), but I never did the hard work of making them into a reality. Not because I didn't feel the drive to do it, but because every time I had time and energy to devote to my writing, I couldn't force that flow that I thought came from magic. I stared at the blinking cursor like it stole my last Oreo and then left the package in the cupboard. And I beat myself up for not doing the things I wanted to - for not creating the work I knew I had in me.
[click_to_tweet tweet="I thought I had Writers' Block, but I was wrong. I simply didn't know how to turn on my writing - or should I say Drafting - brain when I needed it." quote="I thought I had Writers' Block, but I was wrong. I simply didn't know how to turn on my writing - or should I say Drafting - brain when I needed it."]
I've learned a lot since then, and I know now that Writers' Block isn't even a real thing, but the thing that helps me to shake that feeling the most, these days, is the Writing Routine I've developed that'll let my creative brain know that it's time to GO, when it's time to go. I know what lights up my creativity now, and I've gotten to know my brain's defence mechanisms when it wants to drag its ass and be lazy too.
And I've made a consistent Writing Practice that I engage in regularly, so I don't let my writing brain get rusty.
My practice includes free-writing, skill-building and consistent publishing (ish). It's really important in my fight against my own writing apathy and creative laziness. But practice can be hard to keep up.
Practice is important, but Practice is hard.
Sometimes, I still grab my notebook and pen for free-writing time...and then promptly put it down and pick up my phone instead. Because there's gotta be something more interesting on Youtube, right? I skip skill-building and pretend that I know everything on the days I'd rather sleep in. I skip publishing blog posts for months when I get in a rut, and I complain internally that I'm just not *whining voice* motivated.
[click_to_tweet tweet="I know better. I KNOW what makes me motivated to write, and I'll give you a hint: it's not Youtube or sleeping in." quote="I know better. I KNOW what makes me motivated to write, and I'll give you a hint: it's not Youtube or sleeping in."]
What motivates me IS free-writing in my notebook regularly; It is learning and practicing new skills or polishing my favourites, and it is publishing regularly.
So I have to make those things into habits and routines. Then, I don't even have to decide to do them.
I know - and all the science supports - that if I turn a set of practices into a routine, I don't need to use as much will-power to accomplish all of those things. I decide to start the routine, and it just naturally flows from there. AND! If I do the routines often enough, they become habits and my mind will do the Pavlovian thing and show up...if I do.
Writing Routines turn into writing habits and then behaviours. So that's where we're starting: your writing routine.
Routines work well when you connect them to the normal Rhythms of your life. So I built my practice into a simple, and powerful Writing Routine.
It's taken me years to figure out those routines and habits that help me the most.
You can save some time by starting with these 5 tips & Resources:
1. Use a Habit or Reminder app:
Enforce your new writing routine by using a Reminder app. They'll interrupt your normal behaviour with a reminder that you actually want to do a different thing. And usually, the behaviour we need to interrupt lives on our phones, so it's convenient to use an app.
I used the iOS reminder app that's built into iPhones. There are some cool routine building apps out there too.
2. Track it in your Bullet journal or Planner (with stickers):
I LOVE stickers, and I love using planners to keep myself focused and engaged with my projects, so this is a natural one for me. When I set a new routine, I put it right into my planner and check it off each day.
I create a simple spread in my Bullet Journal with the steps in the routine. Then, I draw a grid to check off, colour in, or sticker-ize as I do the thing each day or week.
3. Journal or track your Creative Rhythms:
What makes you more creative and focused? What time of day are your best ideas and best words just flowing out of you? And what are you doing when you feel that way? There's a whole section of prompts about your rhythms and routines in the #30DaysWithaK free-writing Challenge that'll help you pinpoint some of these things.
I come up with my best ideas and have even outlined some really big projects while washing my hair. And I know that I'm most focused and ready to draft out those ideas during the daylight hours - not at night.
4. Find a mindful activity that will quiet your stressed out brain:
This one's really important. Because sometimes, my hair's not dirty. And sometimes I've got too much on my mind to let it go and create. So I've developed some brain-quieting tricks for myself, and they are some of my most important to-do items each day or week. I do yoga every day (at least, I try to) for at least 15 - 20 minutes, to shut down the extra noise in my head and help me focus and simply feel good about what's going on in there. And I've learned how to notice what's happening around me, in the quiet.
I practice at home with Yoga with Adriene on Youtube, and I know a lot of people use the Headspace App to train their brains to sit down and shut up.
5. Commit to practicing for 30 Days and set clear parameters:
You know how everyone says that a habit takes 21 days to form? That's wrong. It actually takes a few months. I like to start by giving myself 30 days to try a new thing. Then, I can reassess how it's going before I commit to doing it forever. That's why I created the #30DaysWithaK free-writing practice challenge: to give you (and me) a way to develop some of the most important pieces of a good Writing Practice together, and over the course of roughly one month.
Then, we can keep on going with the skill-building prompts I put together each month - but use them in the kind of practice that works best for each of us.
It takes time - and mistakes and slip-ups are a part of that. But I'll be here, making my own mistakes and slipping up along with you.
I'm offering what support I can to help you to create the time and space in your life to build your writing practice and share your Voice.
Because these Routines really will turn into Habits that create Behaviours in your life. And your behaviours should be proof of what you believe. So if you belief that writing is something you want to or need to be doing, you need to start building your own Writing Routines into your life now.