The one question I’ve been asked by readers at every event over the last two months has been about my writing routine. I know I’ve blogged about it before, but probably not for a couple of years, and I’ve just realised I have lots of new readers who haven’t read my previous posts on the subject. So, given the number of questions I’ve been asked about it lately, I’m going to shed some light on my writing routine.
The 4 Parts of My Day
My day basically falls into 4 parts.
- Part 1: 6am-8am, which is before the kids go to school
- Part 2: 8am-2.45pm, which is when there are no kids in the house and I can work
- Part 3: 2.45pm-7.15pm, which is when the kids are back and it’s all about them
- Part 4: 7.15pm-9.15pm, which is when the kids are asleep and I get back to work
Part 1 is all about making school lunches, getting breakfasts for everyone, getting a load of washing on and hung out to dry, getting the dishes done, making sure everyone’s ready for school etc. I like to get as many household chores done during this time as possible because I don’t want to waste my work time on chores.
Part 2 is where the writing happens (more below).
Part 3 is a mix of taking kids to and from dancing and other activities, folding washing, making dinner, supervising homework, getting kids bathed, listening to kids read and reading to them, and getting them into bed.
Part 4 is where the admin of my writing life happens: invoicing, preparing for events and courses I’m teaching, writing blog posts like this one, responding to interviews, emails, social media etc.
I like to divide my day into discrete parts because then I know where to focus my energy and attention for those hours. I find I waste time if I jump from one task to another i.e. from writing to preparing a course, or from writing to hanging out washing. So yes, you can see I very much have a routine. But let’s look a bit more closely at what happens in the writing part of the day.
I’m a big fan of writing sprints. The idea of sitting down for 2 hours to write can feel a bit like torture. But sitting down for 30 minutes to write feels much more achievable. If I’m really focussed, I can write as much in a concentrated half hour as I can in a poorly focussed 2 hours.
So I divide my writing time up into 30 minute writing sprints. The first of these begins at 8.30, after I’ve cleared out my email and quickly checked social media for the day. I can now write 1,000 words in half an hour, but that’s because I write hard and fast. I don’t edit, and I’ve been doing it for a while so my output is higher. Four years ago, I might have managed 500 words in half an hour.
It means that if I do 5 x 30 minutes sprints, I will walk away from the day with 5,000 words. It will have only taken two and a half hours to do those 5,000 words, split up into 30 minute blocks.
Exercise is my first non-negotiable. I must exercise each day. Because I spend so much time sitting in front of a desk, it plays havoc with my neck and back. Therefore I have to get up and get moving for the sake of my body.
I also find that exercising during my writing time refreshes me and brings me lots of ideas. I don’t listen to podcasts when I exercise, but I might listen to music. I like to clear out an empty space in my mind and not fill it with other people’s words. I like to allow the words of my story to come to me while I’m walking, swimming or at yoga.
Each day during my writing time I will go for a good 40 minute walk or swim, or go to a yoga class which is 1.5 hours.
I always break from my desk for 30 minutes for lunch. I used to eat at my desk but it’s so bad for my posture. I use my lunch break to read through a research book that’s related to the novel I’m writing. I’ll sit outside or somewhere different to my desk and read, take notes and eat.
Cups of tea are my lifeline. Again, it gives me a reason to stand up and stretch, which is so important. And writing seems to flow so much more easily with tea!
Of course there are other things that interrupt my writing day. School assemblies or sports days or phone interviews or meetings. I try not to have too many of these interruptions in one week – just one if I can manage it, otherwise it really starts to interfere with the flow of my writing.
And there are just the basic things like grocery shopping, which must be done. Friday morning is my half-day, where I’m at Coles at 8am, grocery shopping until 9am, then at yoga until 11am. I really try to make the most of those extra pieces of time early in the morning, which are so easy to waste. So, rather than dropping the kids at the bus stop and then checking email and social media until it’s time to go to yoga at 9am, I make sure to use that hour before yoga to do a job that must be done.
So, that’s it! My very boring writing routine explained in minute detail. Hopefully I haven’t put you to sleep, and hopefully it’s vaguely interesting to some people. Of course, this is my routine for school terms; the school holidays are an entirely different matter!