This week we have a guest post by USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Amy M. Reade, on how she manages her writing routine. Love this advice, Amy!
When my first child was born, she and I filled our days with long walks on the miles of sidewalks in New York City, playing in the park, playing in our apartment, and reading lots of books. She was an infant, so she participated the best she could. My philosophy (and that of my husband, too) was as follows: “She has her whole life to be tied to a routine. Why make her conform to one now?”
We were so stupid.
Fast forward three years. We had another baby girl, and she was blessedly sleeping through the night by the time she was six months old. My older child? Still not sleeping through the night—in fact, she was waking me up as many as a dozen times a night. I kid you not. I thought I would die from three years’ lack of sleep.
In desperation, I went to the library to borrow a book about getting one’s toddler to sleep through the night. The book I chose focused on the importance of a routine in getting a child to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Hmm. This was news. I can hear you thinking, “How could you not know that??” But the sad fact is, I just didn’t.
I took the book to heart, created a routine for my daughter, stuck to it, and she was sleeping through the night three days later. We’ve never looked back.
Such was my introduction to the importance of having a routine.
That lesson has stuck with me through the years, and now that I’m a full-time writer, I’ve found that routine helps me meet my goals, stay focused, and increase my productivity.
How does it do all that? Let’s break it down.
Before we begin, you have to understand a couple of things.
Routines are Not Written in Stone
First, if you read my most recent guest post on Writing and Wellness, I told you that I had a routine under which I wrote in the afternoons. Since writing that post, things have changed. Now I write in the mornings. Translation: your routine might not always work for you—if that happens, change it up and try something new. My new routine works even better for me.
Second, you have to give yourself permission to fail. If you have a routine that works for you and you fall off the wagon for a couple of days, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get back to work and try to stick to it next time. Or try something new. You’ll find your groove, and then you’ll start being productive again.
So back to what I was saying: how does routine help me meet my goals, stay focused, and increase my productivity?
Write Down Your Routine
Every Sunday I write down my schedule for the week. My schedule looks remarkably similar every day. First thing in the morning, I spend one-hour checking email, both private and business, and update or at least check over my social media pages (with one exception, which I’ll address below). My social media pages at the moment consist of Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
After that’s done, I don’t have to post again on any of those platforms. I’m done for the day, with the exception of taking a minute here and there to respond to any comments I might get.
Then I write. At the moment, I’m working on two manuscripts. I work on one, and when I meet my word count goal of 1,000 words, I move on to the other one. I write 1,000 words in that one, too.
Then it’s time for lunch.
After lunch I check Twitter. This is the social media platform exception I mentioned above. I do it after lunch because it’s the platform that takes me the longest and I don’t feel comfortable spending time on Twitter unless my writing is done for the day.
After I’m done on Twitter, that’s where the variety comes in my day. I take the rest of the afternoon to do different tasks, depending on the day of the week: writing blog posts for my own blog and for guest blogs, creating/monitoring/tweaking ad campaigns, updating my website and Amazon/Goodreads/BookBub pages, watching marketing videos, reading blogs I’ve saved from other writers, and any other tasks that crop up during the day.
After that, the bulk of my workday is done. This leaves time to exercise (during which I often listen to writing/publishing podcasts), spend time with my family, and read every day. I love it!
I write on Saturdays, too, and on Sundays, I schedule it all again.
The routine helps me meet my goals for a couple of reasons: first, I’ve found that goals are easier to keep when I write them down. My weekly routine includes word count goals for every day, as well as projects I intend to complete during the week. It’s tough to blow them off when I know those goals are staring at me in black and white. And second, I set goals that are reasonable for me, so I’m not killing myself trying to accomplish them.
And I know me—without a routine to keep me in my chair when I need to be, it wouldn’t happen.
So now that you know how I meet my goals, how does routine help me stay focused? That’s an easy one. Whatever task I’m working on at any point during the day, I know that I can devote all my attention to it. I don’t have to waste any mental energy worrying about any other tasks. The tasks have been built into the schedule and I know I’ve left myself time to get to them and complete them. Not having to think about other projects is a balm for anxiety. My routine and my schedule has provided me with the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time.
Finally, the routine provides for an increase in productivity. You may have heard the old adage, “The more you have to do, the more you can do.” It’s true. Having a routine that includes family time, reading, exercise, and things I love (like cooking) provides for some “me” time every day that helps recharge my batteries and refill my well. I make sure that balance is built into my routine every day. I’ve found that I’m better able to add things to the schedule without anxiety. Right now I’m sporadically working on a couple of other projects, and though I’m not able to spend a lot of time on them, they’re steadily getting done, thereby increasing my productivity.
If you’re not a full-time writer, having a writing routine will work for you, too. You just may have to scale back your expectations and goals. But if you reliably sit down every night for, say, fifteen minutes of writing, you’ll have a completed manuscript before you know it.
Have you found a routine that works for you? Care to share it with us?
Amy M. Reade has penned nine mysteries and is working on two more, plus a Cape May County historical mystery series. She writes in the Gothic, traditional, contemporary, and cozy mystery subgenres and looks forward to continuing the two series she has begun since December 2018.
She is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, House of the Hanging Jade, the Malice series, the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery series, and the Libraries of the World Mystery series.
Her most recent work is Dead, White, and Blue, Book Two in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery series.
You can find Amy here:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade
BookBub Page: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/amy-m-reade