Sticking to a writing routine at Christmas is probably the hardest thing.
Well, who around here is busy, busy, busy? In all honesty, right now I suit being a juggler more than a writer. And it won’t get any easier in the foreseeable future. The horizon promises more demands on my time, not less – demands that threaten my writing. This is one of the greatest tests a budding author can experience — just how determined are you to carve out a place in your lifestyle to accommodate your desire to become an accomplished author?
For me, writing time is sacrosanct. I put aside a good two hours a day for it, minimum. Outside of that practice period, the last thing I consciously mull over before sleeping at night are my novels, and the first thing I chew on in the morning over a cup of tea are my novels. If I can’t work out the hitches that inevitably present themselves in the struggle to get the plot and characters to hang together convincingly, I go write or edit something else until revelation strikes. Right now, I’m revising one novel and I’ve started researching and writing parts of a new novel, within which I have some big concepts and little idea on how I will string them all together into a compelling plot. I also endeavoured to invest my efforts in other creative outlets — see what I made for the kids! (Papier mâché pinatas, though not to be whacked with a stick — kids bashing up a Father Christmas in return for sweets isn't an image that sits particularly comfortably.)
All this literary activity doesn’t even include the hours I spend on other people’s works of fiction. That’s a lot of writing lifestyle, and believe me, it’s not how I started out. This daily routine has taken many years to cultivate. There were times where I wrote periodically instead of daily. Times when I left it alone altogether and almost gave up. But I’m now highly sensitive that if I allow too many days slip by without giving it my attention, the whole shebang might slide away and I’ll lose my momentum. So, even on the days when I feel out of creative juice, like I have nothing to give, I force myself into my seat and re-read what I last wrote and start the cogs turning. Some days I might only tweak a few lines, then the next day I might write a whole new chapter. The best days are when I make a plot breakthrough that I’ve wrestled with for a-a-a-a-ages. But I keep my brain knocking on that door until something cracks open and makes it work. Once you step away because it’s too difficult, you shy away from it for too long and lose your connection with the story, with your technique.
The importance of a writing routine cannot be emphasised enough. No, it doesn’t have to be every day to begin with, but give it long enough and you’ll find yourself automatically making room for it on a daily basis. If you’ve been freewriting in response to my last post on this subject, you may well already be at it like a real trooper. And kudos to you, my friend, if that is the case.
If you have been faithfully freewriting for quite a while now, you might be hungry to move into something a little more imaginative than simply your thoughts on random subjects. But one step at a time. This is about exploring your interests as much as developing a routine. It’s also about developing your skills in a natural order that will build you up to bigger and better experimentation.
Here’s a little exercise to sharpen your writing skills while keeping you in your routine. In the same way you would normally spend time freewriting, instead of using a random word I want you to take a household object — anything you like that’s near to you now or, if you prefer, go dig something out from the attic. Place it on the table in front of you and write about it in a similar way to how you freewrote around a word or topic. Try to describe your object in both conventional and unconventional ways:
How does it look,
How does it move or support itself?
What noises does it make?
What does it remind you of?
What is your history with it?
In what way is it similar to you?
In what way is it opposite?
If your object was a mood, what mood would it be?
In this exercise, it’s best to interact with the object as much as possible. Move it around, shake it, tap it. Throw it, even, if it means discovering something new about it (and it won't break!) As you describe your object, allow yourself to wander off into tangents, much like with freewriting, but keep bringing your writing back to describing the object. This should develop your descriptive skills but also develop your skills in transitioning from one subject to another while keeping control of your focus.
I hope the holidays offer you some quiet time to pursue your writing. But whatever you have planned, have a fantastic Christmas! (Here's a special message to all my followers.)