One of the most common things I hear from other writers is that they would be making progress if they could just find the time to write.
Often, it isn't about finding the time but making the time.
We all have the same number of hours in the day, it's just about prioritizing writing if it's important to us and making sure we make good use of our time.
Lots of writers will tell you that you should simply wake up an hour or two earlier every day and suddenly, before the sun comes up, you'll finally have a finished draft of your book!
This works for some people, but not for everyone.
Here are five steps to finding your ideal writing routine:
1. Do an energy audit
The only problem with the whole "wake up at four in the morning and write for two hours" thing is that some of us (ahem, me) hate early mornings. Maybe your brain doesn't turn on until after you've had your morning coffee, or maybe, you'd rather be writing after your whole house is asleep and you're the only one burning the midnight oil.
An energy audit is exactly what it sounds like. Take notes on your energy levels throughout the day.
Are you absolutely amped and ready to write as soon as you hit the gym? Do you love the mornings before work? Do you find yourself inspired and full of ideas whenever you wander into the kitchen for a midnight snack?
Notice when and where your energy peaks, look for where your writing time might be ideally placed.
2. Look at your motivations
If you know me at all, you've heard me talk about the enneagram. I love this personality test because I think it goes deeper than simply telling someone about themselves. Instead, it looks at our core motivations. My husband wants to be seen as successful. I want to avoid pain and joyfully prance to a good time. The point: our motivations are different.
Figure out what motivates you, and then use it as a secret weapon against your avoidance behaviors or lack of productivity.
If you love a good time, plan a trip with a friend that you only get to attend if you finish your draft. If you want to be seen as successful, have accountability from someone whose opinion matters to you or write in public places where you need to *look* like you're writing like libraries or coffee shops (you'll actually end up writing).
One of the biggest mistakes I see beginners make is that they try one writing routine, expect perfection, disappoint themselves, and then get discouraged and feel like they shouldn't try again.
The secret to being a great writer is being great at failing and trying again anyway.
This applies to writing routines. It's important to experiment. If you can, make it a playful and exciting process. Try writing with a friend. Find out you hate it. Try something else. Think of yourself as a your own personal mad scientist who is looking for a formula that works.
That mad scientist has to be willing find lots that don't work before finding the one that does and results in a light bulb moment.
4. Repeat what works
When you find what works, overuse it. Use it as much as possible. If you are the best at following through when you reward yourself, make yourself a huge rewards chart with deadlines and word counts and everything from stickers to fancy dinners.
Double down on any strategy that you find that's helpful and soon you'll be writing more than you ever have been before. If sharing your words publicly motivates you, be at every open mic night in your town or start posting blog posts daily.
Make it your goal to have the longest possible streak with yourself on doing what works for your writing routine.
5. Stay flexible
Then, you've done it! Except for when your ideal writing routine stops working because you have a baby or you change jobs or your mother in law comes to visit or your spouse decides to work from home more often.
This is your chance to bend, not break, and keep pursuing your dream of writing.
Remind yourself how important this is to you. Maybe even keep a physical reminder of your "why" behind writing for when your ideal writing routine shifts and changes.
Remember, you're a human. That means you change. You live a life that's seasonal and in some seasons your ideal writing routine will look very different than others. I had a previous early morning season, now I shudder at the idea of it, but I know that one day I might return to it.
The routine isn't the most important thing; it's the writing. Show up for it as best as you can in the season you're in, and you'll make progress.