How To Establish A Writing Routine – Start With Your Ideal Day

by Anne Wayman

writer's officeYesterday we talked about why successful freelance writers have a writing routine. The trick, of course, is establishing one.

One approach I suggest to my coaching clients is to start with their ideal day. “What would your perfect writing day look like?” I’ll ask.

The idea isn’t original with me. I got it from the book, Wishcraft: How To Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb.

The idea is to imagine what perfection might be like and your imagination will come up with all sorts of things. Often the first thought is a negative one, like “I don’t have any time at all!” or “This won’t work!”

Take a deep breath and dare to dream about what you really want. Chances are within that dream are elements you can use to being to establish a writing routine. For this purpose notice first how long you’d actually be writing in that ideal day.

I’m going to assume it’s somewhere between one and six hours a day. If you’ve got a regular job one or two hours five days a week is a perfectly reasonable amount of time. Or you might want to try four hours on each of your weekend days. If you’ve made the move to freelancing full time, something like four to six hours often makes sense.

Once you’ve identified the amount of time, the next step is to find where in the day those hours actually fit. Along with that is the recognition that you work best early in the day, late in the day or something in between. The sense that you writer better first thing, or late, etc. is a real one and should be honored in a reasonable manner.

Make an appointment with yourself to write

Now, using that information make an appointment with yourself to spend x hours at such-and-such a time for the next week. Put it in your calendar – and if you don’t have a calendar, get one – paper, on your computer, on your smart phone – somewhere.


After seven days have passed look and see if you kept your appointments with yourself. If you did, great, you’re on your way to a writing routine. But don’t be surprised if you didn’t. You may, for example, have gotten off to a great start and written when you said you would for a day or two, then found yourself skipping a day or even the rest of the week. That’s okay, we’re exploring right now.

If you didn’t keep your appointments with yourself ask why. Maybe there was a legitimate reason, like a family emergency. More likely, however, is you found excuses, maybe even unconsciously. That may mean you simply need to start again, or it might mean the schedule needs adjusting.  It might even mean you really don’t want to work at writing right now.

Whatever you discover you’re ahead because you’ve learned something about yourself.

It’s okay to start again… and again

Most people find they need to both start again and adjust their schedule in the beginning. Developing the discipline to write regularly requires practice, and some self-acceptance. You can start again over and over until you either get a writing schedule that works for you or you discover writing really isn’t your thing after all.

The goal is to establish a writing routine that works for you.

Know too that the pattern of writing you set for yourself today will, over time change – as it should.

Obviously, no one can do this for you. You can read blogs like this one or John Soares wonderful Productive Writers blog for hints, ideas and even instructions on how to become successful, but it is up to you.

You are the only one who can write, rewrite and market yourself to success.

What’s your routine and how did you establish it?

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Jeremy Levine Design

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitch Mitchell August 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

I’m not close to being as disciplined as I need to be on a regular schedule. I pick 2 days a week, often Tuesdays and Thursdays, and plan the entire day for all the stuff I need to do, which includes writing. I also make sure to schedule breaks, otherwise I won’t eat. And those schedules go from 10:30 in the morning through 1AM the next morning; I tend to stay up pretty late.

When I schedule myself I get a lot done, but it can also be a strain, which is why I don’t do it every day.
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Jamie Beckett August 26, 2011 at 12:49 am

I write every day. That’s not such a big sacrifice really, Most people go to work every day, and so do I. The difference is that I don’t pump gas, or mow yards, sell insurance, or perform surgery on needy children. I write. I do it because I love it, and it gives me something more than just money at the end of each work day.

When confronted with this reality, the question I’m most often asked is, “How do you become a professional writer?” The answer, ironically perhaps, is astoundingly simple. You write. The more you write, the more likely you are to find something that you’re good at writing about. You’ll also tend to find that like exercise, if you plan to write every day, you will eventually start doing just that – even if the process of getting to that point has a few detours along the way.

If you want to write, then write. Don’t worry if you’re not particularly good at it. It’s almost impossible to stay lousy at something you really love to do, if you do it often.

Life is funny like that.
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Anne August 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Yes, it is exactly that simple… thanks for backing me up Jamie.

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Jodi Hughey August 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I write when I can, but not often as I like.

I have found that by starting my day with writing I usually end my day writing. That doesn’t mean I write from the time I wake to the time I lay my head back on the pillow. I am bombarded by interruptions during the day. I have had to make a routine of combining interruptions and writing. The system works when I am working on small projects. Bigger projects require more stretches of time – it is this routine that I need to develop.

I love the “make an appointment with yourself” idea! When a big project needs to be done I will just make an appointment with myself – no interruptions allowed.

I appreciate the great advice! :-)
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Anne August 30, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Jodi, I’ll also do something on stopping interruptions… short form is learning to say ‘no’ – doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a start.

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