Do you wait for inspiration to strike before you write, or sit down on a regular basis and write regardless of how you feel?
It’s great to feel inspired — to be almost obsessed with your writing, eager to get words down as quickly as possible. When you’re really in the writing zone, you might find yourself losing track of time and being highly productive for hours.
But let’s be honest, for most of us, this isn’t a daily or even a weekly reality. Most of the time, we do want to write … but we somehow struggle to get on with it.
If you only ever write when you’re inspired, you probably won’t produce much. That’s fine if you’re happy writing an occasional poem or short story, but if you’re working on a blog, a novel, or an entire writing career, you’ve got to make writing more of a routine.
And yet, sitting down and forcing out 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 words a day could just be a recipe for hating both the act of writing and what you’ve written.
Here’s how to get the best of both worlds.
Step #1: Schedule regular writing sessions
To keep up your momentum, you need to write regularly. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing daily.
Some writers thrive while working on their book, say, for 20 minutes per day, without fail. Others do much better with two hour-long sessions each week.
Find a writing rhythm that works for you — not your best friend, your creative writing tutor, or that author you follow on Twitter. Experiment with short daily sessions one week and longer twice-week sessions the next. Which do you prefer?
You may even find your rhythm shifts over time, especially if other aspects of your life change, so don’t be afraid to experiment again occasionally.
Step #2: Make your environment work for you
Something that writers often don’t realize about inspiration is it generally doesn’t just appear out of the blue.
You might always feel inspired after a long walk, or a relaxing bath, or when you listen to a particular piece of music.
As much as possible, make your work in your favor. When you sit down to write, you want to feel like you’re instantly getting into that writing zone.
This could mean:
- Removing distractions from nearby — if you have a bunch of half-read books on your desk and they tempt you away from writing, put them somewhere else.
- Playing music, white noise, or other sounds that help you focus. I often pick an album (or a band) to listen to just while I’m working on my novel-in-progress, and sometimes use if I’m struggling to focus on other writing.
- Using reminders of your writing goals: or posters on your wall, vision boards, or your total word count so far on a Post-it note on your desk; whatever works for you.
Step #3: Give yourself a break when you need it
While it’s great to form a strong writing habit, if you have a particular day or week when you’re really struggling to write, let it go. Take some time off before you risk burning out. You may just need to let your work sit for a day or two while you give your subconscious a chance to come up with some new insights.
Personally, I sometimes find it hard to distinguish between feeling a bit lazy and being genuinely in need of a break. If that happens to you too, I suggest setting a timer and writing for just 10 minutes.
If you find your initial reluctance to write has faded, or entirely gone, keep going! If those 10 minutes were a real grind, stop and give yourself permission to have a writing break.
Step #4: Stay connected to your writing in busy times
Sometimes, routines get interrupted. Maybe you’re ill, or your kids are ill. Maybe you’re moving house or starting a new job or working on a big non-writing project.
If you know you’re going through a busy patch, and you won’t have the time or energy to write on a regular basis, look for ways to stay connected to your work.
That might mean:
- Keeping a notebook of ideas for blog posts.
- Reading books or blogs about writing (or listening to podcasts).
- Sharing excerpts of your writing with other people.
- Jotting down a single sentence in a journal every day.
You might find you feel inspired to write a blog post or a new scene of your novel — if so, great, go with it! If you don’t, that’s fine too.
Ultimately, there’s no perfect blend of inspiration and routine that will work for every writer, but all of us need both the spark of inspiration and the momentum of regular work to produce finished work that makes us feel happy and satisfied.
How do you balance inspiration with routine in your own writing life? Share your tips in the comments below!