Given that creative writing is not my full time job, I have very limited windows of time that I can dedicate to my novel. Saturday mornings are usually when I accomplish the most. But as we head into holiday season, I know that my weekend writing time will be eaten into. Also, now that I am really getting serious about my book, writing one morning a week just isn’t enough.
So, last week, I committed to add weeknights to my writing “routine” – spending an hour a night (8:00-9:00pm) with my keyboard and creative self. I made a deal with myself…if my inner writer and I were getting along, I would extend the writing time past 9pm. If we fought, I would walk out on her right at 9.
Turns out, we didn’t fight. But I really struggled to give her my full attention. My focus was constantly being interrupted by a series of whines: this couch is uncomfortable; it’s too dark at the kitchen table; this chair is too stiff; I need a window; hmmm…isn’t House Hunters International on? Then the dog would walk over and nudge my leg. Or I’d suddenly feel thirsty and grab some juice. The hour passed quickly and two sentences were all I had to show for it. And they weren’t even critical sentences to the story.
I got angry with myself. Told myself I was making excuses. Who needs a special writing chair and desk to write successfully? Am I just not creative on weeknights? Needing a specific creative space…it’s just so…pretentious, indulgent, precious…isn’t it? So I did some research.
I stumbled upon an interesting posting from Chapter and Verse, and it confirmed the experience I have been living (http://www.chapterandverse.ca/worth-reading/380-the-importance-of-routine-for-writers.html). A routine signals to our mind that it is now time to focus. Which explains my issues writing at my dining table, or on my couch. When on the couch, my brain is getting the signal to watch tv. Suddenly House Hunters is all I can think about. At the dining room table, I am suddenly getting signals that I am thirsty, hungry. Those items of furniture – couch, dining table - already have routines and signals attached to them.
So, I needed a space that signalled nothing but creativity and writing.
After some almost back-breaking work, I managed to transform my old dining table (which I have been trying to get rid of on Kijiji forever; now I know why it wasn’t meant to sell) into a writing surface, and hauled it – by myself - up my winding staircase to my second floor den. It fits perfectly in the corner, in front of the window, right next to an electrical outlet. Go figure.
And then, I sat down at this new table, looked out the window, and wrote non-stop for 2 straight hours. 10 sentences finished. All critical ones. And I'm excited to go back to it tonight.
So…what’s critical to your writing routine?