Friday 28 April 2017

Changing Routines

I keep seeing articles on social media that talk about how to be a "real" writer. Most of these involve routines that mean you are writing every day, the implication being that if you don't follow the steps in the article, you are not a "real" writer.

The tips to help you achieve this often include helpful tips such as getting up early, having calendars to mark off when you've written, write the same time every day, set aside hours of time to achieve your word count goals, and similar ideas.

Most of these ideas are quite unhelpful to me. They seem to assume that you have hours every day to devote to writing and that you have a supportive someone who can work to pay the bills, look after kids, etc. Or your writing is generating enough income so you don't need a day job.

One thing these articles seem to talk about is having a rigid writing routine, where you protect your daily writing time and set it in stone.

Scheduling writing time

Lately I've learned that it's great to have goals and diarise writing time, however, I have also learned that life changes and things don't always go to plan. Your writing routine has to be flexible.

Earlier this year, my older son ended up in hospital in extreme pain. There was a week when no writing happened. He is still in pain and has multiple appointments per week. Juggling that with work and getting my other son to school and activities usually results in little writing being done, and especially not every day. Getting up early to write is not going to happen either - I'm too tired.

I have found another writing routine. This usually involves setting aside some time on the weekend to sit in my favourite cafe and write. I'm incredibly productive in these times and have been known to write 2,000 words in a session!

One of my writing sessions - over dinner!
The fact I don't write every day doesn't make me any less of a writer. In a discussion with another author, she pointed out that writing is a job, just like any other job, and we're entitled to some time off or even working part time. Just like any work situation, there is no one size fits all approach to writing. Different routines work for different people, but no matter what, we need to be flexible with these routines because life can often get in the way of the best laid plans.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two teenage boys and pet blue tongue lizard.

She writes flash fiction as well as middle grade novels. You can follow her writing journey at and


  1. Hi Melissa - I think you make a great point that our writing routines need to fit our particular circumstances and there are times when family or health or something else needs to take priority. I am currently doing write every day of the year challenge (11 days off allowed) and I am finding it productive though I don't necessarily have a set time for writing and I think it can add pressure - especially when a writer also needs time for brainstorming, outlining, editing, promotion :) A 'real' writer writes - whether this is every day or in a block on weekends. Writing daily does help flow, but it's more important that routines are doable and appropriate to the individual writer imo.

    1. I've seen the "write every day" challenges, and they seem too much for me! All the best with your challenge :)

  2. Phew! Glad to hear it, otherwise I would have sunk to the depths of wannabe hopeful, since my writing schedule is all over the place, and dare I say it, goes in fits and starts. But then, it's a bit like being a farmer - there are seasons that are busy and seasons that are slow. With writing, for me, it depends on circumstance AND mental preparedness. Thanks for discussing it.

    1. So glad I'm not the only one with a chaotic writing schedule :)

  3. I like the analogy of a farmer, Meredith.

    I've just finished a long season of editing - so glad that's over. I'm now into a season of brainstorming and outlining. However I haven't actually written a decent block of material (not blog posts) for a while, but I think/hope that season is coming!

  4. Well said.

    I read a lot of this kind of writing advice, and it's frustrating. People share the way *they* do it as some kind of magic formula, yet if there really was a magic formula the experts would all agree on it, and all writers would earn enough to write full time :)

    Having said that, there are sometimes some good tips. But more often than not the ideas are ones I've tried and dismissed because they don't work for me. I figure that's okay. I want what I write to be unique, so it only follows that my process should also be unique.

  5. I couldn't agree more. I have fingers in a number of different "pies" - ministry, writing, publishing, work, not to mention just life. Most times one will take precedence over all the others. Neither my lifestyle nor my personality would allow for the drudgery of writing for a set time, or churning out a set number of words, every day.

  6. I completely agree with you. Sometimes I've put a project aside just to pick it up again several weeks or even months down the track. And I've spoken to others who admit they do the same. Being inflexible about these things would take all the fun out of them.

  7. I wrote my first novel while teaching speech and drama, on Friday mornings only. That's all I had free; plus I wrote whole chapters on the train between Nambour and Brisbane! In those days I wrote by hand and my sister interpreted the scrawl and typed it up.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.