Building a Writing Routine one Minute at a Time

For those of you who are writers out there, I am curious, do you actually have a routine that helps you be productive with your writing?

If not, is it because you don’t feel the need for a routine since you are consistently productive without one? Or did you try to establish some kind of regular schedule or goal-setting and it just didn’t work?

Routines?! Ugh

Personally, I have rebelled against routines all my life. I’m not sure why. Maybe they seem to remove the creativity and novelty from life. Or maybe they make life too predictable, and I’ve always loved surprises, unique experiences and new possibilities.

But now that I’m older, I appreciate how routines simplify life and make room for what is most important to me, things like family, friends, and writing. I’m even trying to establish a routine for meal planning! Unbelievable.

I’ve finally realized that I need a writing routine because it’s still not working to “get everything done on my To Do List and then write.” (I know people say it’s impossible to get everything done on your To Do List, but I don’t understand why, so I’m still trying to.)

A To Do List seems to act just like Facebook’s news feed: when you get to the bottom, it magically adds a whole ton more, so you can never, EVER finish reading your news feed. And it feels like for every item I cross off my List, five or ten items magically appear at the bottom.

The one minute a day challenge

In my last post I mentioned writing courses, and how helpful the Reedsy courses were. In one of the lessons of “Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine,” they go through some ways of setting goals that will make it easy to establish a habit of writing regularly. One tip mentions having a tiny goal.

Oh sure, I thought. I can’t wait to see what they consider a “tiny” goal. With my schedule, I doubt if I can find the time to write even 100 words that are intelligent and meaningful EVERY SINGLE DAY.

But what they suggest is considering starting with one minute of writing, or three words. Every day. Until the habit is established, then adding more.

Well, I had to laugh. That just sounded funny, and fun. So I had to try it and see what happened.

(If you are interested, at the end of this post you can see 3 days’ worth of what I came up with, using various writing prompts)

So? Any thoughts? And by the way, if you do have a routine that works for you, will you share it?

I’ll close with a story that gave me a chuckle, about James Joyce, who was apparently a notoriously slow writer:

“A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair. ‘James, what’s wrong?’ the friend asked. ‘Is it the work?’

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always? ‘How many words did you get today?’ the friend pursued. Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): ‘Seven.’

‘Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.’ ‘Yes,’ Joyce said, finally looking up. ‘I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”

attributed to Stephen King

You might also enjoy this post, “Write Everyday, Right?”

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A 3-Day Sample of me attempting to establish a writing routine by writing one minute each day [Unedited!]

Day 1 Writing Prompt from the website Writing Fix: “Create a title for a story using unique alliterative words that begin with A, and write the story”

Adorable Avery arranged the alpacas

The chill of the morning turned little Avery’s short breaths into steam, and, as it bent down to nuzzle the clay bowl of breakfast scraps, Blondie’s breath puffed into Avery’s face. His face only coming up to the llama’s belly, Avery nevertheless barked out his annoyance. “Back! Back! You greedy girl! You’ll be last with such bad manners!” He turned away from the tan animal and squeezed his small body between two black llama’s even larger than Blondie. Setting down the bowl, Avery ducked under the necks of the hungry animals, then climbed between the round posts of the fence.

Giselda, Avery’s mother, watched from the window of their family’s small shack. She smiled, then closed her eyes and raised her face to the sun. “Gracias,” she sighed. She was watching a promise come true.

* * * * *

Day 2 Writing Prompt from the website Writing fix: “tiny pig dashing over the North Pole”

Dear tpdotnp: For crying out loud. It’s been three months. Surely you trust me enough to reveal the mysterious meaning of your username. Greg75

Dear Greg75: Okay. You’re right. I do trust you. Even though you chickened out. Tpdotnp

Dear tpdotnp: You know very well I got stuck in traffic. The four-car pile up? Remember?

Dear Greg75: Just joshin’. What are you doing right now? We could attempt another meeting.

Dear tpdotnp: I’m at work. Supposed to be working, but there are no customers, and my shoulder is still too sore to stock.

Dear Greg75: Sigh.

Dear tpdotnp: Why don’t you come on over?

Dear Greg75: Are you kidding?

Dear tpdotnp: No.

Dear Greg75: Give me the address and instructions on how to get there.

Dear tpdotnp: Black’s Photo in Southcentre.

Dear Greg75: See you in about forty-five minutes.

Delsie knew that Southcentre Mall was only fifteen minutes away. But she wanted to spy.

* * * * *

Day 3 Writing Prompt from the book, Writer’s Book of Matches, p.32 “What time is the next train?”

A man dressed in a suit and groomed sharply stood behind the yellow band of the light rail station, awaiting the train. Motionless, he stared down at the concrete beneath the steel rails for a minute without seeming to breathe or blink. It was 6:45 and the sun shined benevolently on this tardy friend, who was expected at a restaurant near his home, an hour’s train ride away. He inhaled deeply, silently releasing the breath. His expression wasn’t angry or sad; just thoughtful. Or neutral, without any thoughts. Or overwhelmed, with a crisis or a whirlwind of ideas creating noise in his head. Certainly he was oblivious to the sounds and people that came and went around him.

He looked tired now. Had it been the outburst of tears from the little girl who tripped going up the stairs to the parking lot? Clenching his jaw, he’d only glanced backward at her for a second before returning his gaze to the tracks. Was he willing the tracks to hum with the approaching train? Or did he even care if the train came? Did he care if he made it to the restaurant? Did he care if he saw his friends?

* * * * *

Okay, now that you’ve read some of my attempts, care to share one of your short writing practices in the comments section? Aww, come on…

Image courtesy of Pxfuel, https://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-qzlak

“Inclement Weather” published in The Storyteller Magazine

My short story, “Inclement Weather”, is now appearing in the current issue of The Storyteller: A Writer’s Magazine.  What a thrill!

This story came out of a unique writing opportunity and a great book of writing prompts.  Several years ago when I was a teaching assistant working at an elementary school, I had two months off during the summer, and spent one of those months in Denver visiting my family.  My routine was to spend mornings writing, and the rest of the day visiting.  I’d brought with me a favorite book, The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction, and used many of the prompts to write short stories.  This was one of them.

Screenshot - 30-Jul-2013 , 5_43_06 AM storyteller cvrScreenshot - 30-Jul-2013 , 5_44_51 AM Storyteller TOC

Over the years, I revised it many times and struggled to find markets for my humorous, slightly romantic story.  Eventually I submitted it to the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition in the Genre Short Story category.  (This is typical of my questionable habit of starting high, in a competitive arena, and if I don’t get a positive response, I know it still needs work.)  And I got no response.  I revisited it a year later, and something occurred to me about a change that was happening with the main character, so I clarified and emphasized that change and felt that I’d improved the whole story.

With this new enthusiasm, I went back to the Writer’s Market books and the internet to find a potential home for my story.  My writing style isn’t the most in-demand.  I don’t write in some of the more popular genres, such as paranormal, thrillers, mysteries or science fiction.  I think my stories could be considered a mixture of women’s fiction with a touch of romance, and on the corny side, definitely tough to find markets for.  So I was excited to find The Storyteller listed in the 2013 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market as a publisher who was specifically looking for wholesome writing.  “We accept all genres, but please remember this is a family magazine and submit accordingly.”

The Storyteller is listed in the 101 Best of the Magazine Markets for 2006-2011, and The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers 2009-2011. Harvard University has now included the Storyteller in their publication, Magazines for Libraries. It is a world wide publication.

Screenshot - 30-Jul-2013 , 6_35_11 AM Storyteller home pgHere is the brief summary I included on the cover letter for “Inclement Weather”:

All Robert wanted was to come in out of the rain for a few minutes, but the next thing he knew, he was in a shouting match with a complete stranger.  Over a period of less than fifteen minutes, however, the conflict in the dress shop caused a significant change inside him which transformed a faltering element of his personality.  He left a  much taller man with a delightful woman on his arm.

You can buy this and other issues of The Storyteller by going to their website and clicking on “Shop with Us”.  To order this issue, choose the Single Issue option, and select April, May, June.

Screenshot - 30-Jul-2013 , 6_30_34 AM Ordering fr mag AprMayJune issue