On keeping a routine fresh

I’m the kind of writer who needs a schedule to be productive. Without my routine, it’s easy for me to become unmoored and start to feel lost. I firmly believe that those butt-in-chair hours are so essential to everything—work ethic, progress, creativity, growth. And I always know that I’m going to have a good day when I have logged some writing time before I head off to work in the morning. Athletes talk about endorphins—about feeling their best right after a workout. I feel like that after I write.

But life gets in the way, and some days the routine gets interrupted. Some days, I just can’t sit down at my desk for my planned time before work and commit to a writing session. I know this, but I still struggle to feel like I’m on an even keel when I deviate from my routine. I start to blame myself for reasons why I couldn’t put in the time. I feel less creative and therefore less fulfilled.

The struggle for me is not letting my routine turn into a rut. Routines are key to consistency as writers, but adaptability is just as important—being able to change things up and go with the flow. A routine shouldn’t feel like a chore. I shouldn’t be hard on myself if I sit at my desk for an hour and only have two hundred words to show for it. Or if I decide to read instead of write one day.

So my goal is to be more open, more spontaneous. I want to pick up my tablet and write on my lunch break because I feel like it. Write at the kitchen table or visit the library for a change of scenery. Brainstorm or research something for my book instead of churning out words.

What I’m learning is that words are impossible to quantify, and progress in writing can be measured in so many different ways. A day isn’t only a good day if two thousand words are added to your word count. Maybe you only write fifty words, but they’re fifty words that fit perfectly. Or maybe you read a great book and feel inspired. Maybe you play with a new idea, something you want to work on down the road. Maybe you take a walk and mentally recharge.

These are all important aspects to development as a writer—and the more forgiving I am of myself, the happier I feel the end of the day. And the more likely I’ll be to plunk down at my desk at midnight for some spontaneous words.

I’d love to hear from other writers—how do you combat a writing rut?

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