Do you struggle to schedule writing into your life? You can find dozens of tips online. Set an alarm clock. Write at the same time every day. Turn off phone and Internet. Commit to writing a fixed daily number of words or hours.
What few blogs tell you is that different writers do it differently. Sure, many follow a routine. That’s what we humans do rather than invent life from scratch every minute. It’s not some magical secret of a best-selling author’s success.
So here’s my practice, not necessarily yours. I work to external or self-assigned due dates. Blog entries must be ready to post on Mondays, writing for clients when promised, medieval mystery chapters in time for my critique group. I write at various hours depending what else is on the calendar—a morning or afternoon class, lunch with a friend—but quit by mid-evening to unwind for sleep. I draft in my head while driving or taking walks. If I can’t get onto a creative roll, I stay on task with research or edits.
Whatever your practice, two essentials can help your writing to happen. First, take it seriously. Treat it as your work, whether or not you’re getting paid. Second, don’t wait for inspiration. Show up and write. John Updike quipped, “I’ve never believed that one should wait until one is inspired, because I think that the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them, you’ll never write again.”
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.