Find Your Groove: The Tao of Routine

For the past week, I've been shaken out of my regular routine by both planned and unplanned travel. One of those trips involved a sick relative, and I decided I would bring along my laptop and work wherever, under whatever circumstances.

I know people who regularly write in hotel rooms, airports, coffee houses, public parks, and parents' bedsides. There are those who drag along their netbooks and write their heads off on vacation. (Talk about your busman's holiday!)

Although I've been known to jot notes for a work in progress, winnow down and respond to pressing e-mails, and the like, I've found that I truly need routine to signal my subconscious that it's time to settle in and focus. Countless writers have developed rituals involved thinks like freshly sharpened pencils, freshly-brewed tea (or Diet Coke or coffee), two-point-six hands of computer solitaire, and the lighting of a cinnamon cookie-scented candle.

What the ritual is matters little. Mine has shifted over the years and often involves music, working out my fidgets with a little net-scanning or e-mail, and then finally zeroing in on the task at hand. I try to keep the time of day fairly steady, the interruptions at a minimum, and the fingers on the keyboard, whether or not I'm under contract.

When I'm out of my routine and away from where I normally write, my muse can't always find me. According to her day planner, I'm supposed to be at home, in my writing chair, all ready to go between the hours of about nine AM to three o'clock. If I'm not in the right ZIP code and not in my writing-ready frame of mind, she takes the day off and hangs out with the "real" writers at Starbucks (or wherever they are stationed.)

This is why so many professional writers write every single day (or as close to it as they can manage.) Developing a routine frees us of a mighty struggle to get started and trains our brains to far more readily drop down the rabbit hole into the magical world to gather words.

Even if you can only write for a few minutes each day, you're telling your muse where and when to show up. What I'm looking for right now -- since travel is going to be part of my lifestyle for a while -- is a portable routine that I can take out on the road.

What do you do to get yourself geared up for writing? And do any of you have tips or tricks to help me pack my muse's bag?


This is what I keep telling my students, Colleen. When I was coming off that horrendous writer's block a few years ago (has it really been four years?) I COULDN'T do much more than 15 minutes--in fact, I started back with just 5 minutes! Within a few months, I was up to three-four hour stints, and by the time I finished my first draft, I could write eight, nine, ten hours a day (not necessarily recommended, but it was summer and I had a self-imposed deadline). But I can remember those first awkward fits and starts.

Great post!
Oh, and I have a "writing bag" that I take with me when I write outside of the house (which is actually most of the time, despite the new amazing desk)

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