I’ve been reading a dog training manual. I’ve been reading it as if it is the sole text on which I am to be examined for an life-changing certificate of achievement. It is 8 days until the puppy arrives and I am already starting to change my daily routines, to leave time for letting him out in the morning and for Andy to do the morning walk. I’m already planning to go to my office for two/three hours five times a week, rather than for six/eight hours twice a week.
Babies, whether human or canine, like routine. So does your writing.
When you set a regular writing time, something magical happens. All the ideas that come to you randomly (while in the middle of a busy supermarket, or just as you are about to pick up a friend to go out to dinner) begin to come to you during your writing time. It’s as if your muse learns when you will be available, and begins saving itself for when it has your full attention.
This means that your word count goes up; meaning that you have more to work with and to edit. You also begin to enjoy your writing time more; because it’s not quite so painfully slow, it feels more like play. And all this means that you can finish earlier, and give yourself more time to, say, walk the dog, or go to the movies, or make something delicious to eat. Your writing begins to work better in your life, then.
I’m not the first writer or writing coach to tell you this, I’ll bet. Flaubert advised being ‘regular and bourgeoise’ in your daily habits, Dorathea Brande talks about this extensively in her seminal 1930’s writing guide, and Stephen King, in his wonderful On Writing also encourages it. I think the reason we sometimes hold back is that we are culturally conditioned to think that regular writing is somehow of less value than spontaneous writing. If this is your fear, consider the words of Peter DeVries, ‘I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9am.’
When’s the next time you’ll engage with your creative practice?