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Freelance Writers: Here are 7 Writing Routines that Actually Work
Written by William Ballard, Freelance Writer and Author
If you’re familiar with even a handful of writer biographies, then you know this: There’s no single recipe for becoming a writer. For every party-loving Fitzgerald, there’s an Emily Dickinson who stayed at home. There’s the self-taught Ray Bradbury and the PhD-holding Toni Morrison. There are atheists, church-goers, world travelers and home state loyalists. At the end of the day, the only constant seems to be, to borrow an often repeated phrase: “writers write.”
Sounds simple, but anyone who’s forging their way through a freelance writing assignment knows how easily jobs (if you are doing freelance writing part-time), family obligations, self-doubt, or something wholly unexpected can get in the way. Setting up a routine, knowing when and how to get to the page, having strategies for carving out writing time and having peace and quiet to work: these are the most important things you can do for yourself as a writer. Try one (or several) of these time-tested writing routines and discover your most productive writing self.
1. Write 2 Hours Day
It’s a goal that many of us have, and it’s a worthy one: make writing a part of your daily routine. If you can do more than two hours, that’s wonderful, if you can only do less, that’s okay too. The trick is to write for the same amount of time every single day, and to be intentional and consistent about it. Another strategy that gets repeated a lot—even in fiction!—is to write five hundred words a day.
2. Write When The Passion is Hot
Practice pays off, but if the daily grind really isn’t your thing, then follow your instincts. Write when you’re ready to pour whole stories/volumes out onto the page. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent his career considering the behaviors and thought processes of creative folks: writers, scientists, comedians, mountain climbers, visual artists, musicians, chess players. The common link? An emphasis on entering an “ecstatic state” while engaged in their chosen art form. With that in mind, while you’re on a hot streak of passion, and can feel yourself engrossed in a project, go with it, and keep on going.
3. Use a Writing Playlist
I have several friends who swear by this method. Just like you’d do for an exercise routine: make up a playlist of your most inspiring or mood-specific songs, enough to last the duration of your writing session. Music may even affect your work in ways you didn’t expect. As Dan Chaon said of his 2005 short story collection, You Remind Me of Me: “I notice whole passages…that were strongly affected by some of the stuff I was listening to as I wrote, bands like Sparklehorse, Red House Painters, The Innocence Mission, Julie Doiron, Yo La Tengo, Idaho, The Eels.”
4. Keep a Journal, and Never Stop Taking Notes
This is a good option for those on the move, and for those who write best in short, quick bursts. These days, there’s a temptation to share your brilliant thoughts in real time. Nevertheless, hold some back. Carve out a secret world for yourself where your ideas can incubate, amass, connect, and flourish.
5. Write in Your Head (But Always Find Time Take What is Written in Your Head and Put it on Paper)
This is the anytime/anywhere solution. Just don’t forget to (eventually) record your ideas in a more tangible form! “I can write anywhere,” Hilary Mantel has said. “I long ago learned to write and polish a paragraph in my head.” On a similar note, see this lovely piece by Silas House, on the importance of always maintaining a writerly view of the world.
6. Wake up early / Stay up late
These methods are flip sides of the same coin, with a shared goal: solitude. Discover those odd hours when the world is mostly quiet and still, no ringing phone, no self-replenishing inbox, etc. Because when it comes down to it, writing is between you and the page. The knowledge and the story are already inside you; everything else is a potential distraction.
7. Read for inspiration
Most writers read voraciously, but this is different. When you’re in need of a refreshing burst of language—or perhaps when you’re hunting for a certain voice or point of focus—it can be incredibly helpful to surround yourself with other people’s books. Mary Gordon has stressed the value of this pre-writing ritual: “There’s a funny period before I really get started in a work—you know how dogs run in circles until they can figure out the exact spot where they need to lie down? I’m kind of like that until I can find the writer whose tone of voice really gets me going…A favorite poem or prose passage can be the perfect tuning fork.”
Now Over to You...
Have you used any of these writing routines? If so, which ones? Or, do you have your own writing routines that have presented themselves to be of use to you? Please share you routines and thoughts in the comments below. And don't forget to share this article with your friends on Facebook or your followers on Twitter.
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About the Author
William Ballard is the author of, "8 Tips to Freelance Writing Success (Article Writing Series)" and "3 Steps to Blogging Success: Discovering Your Passion, Finding Your Audience, and Developing an Income Stream (Article Series)".
He has been writing professionally for over 10+ years and has much experience within the industry, both in publishing and in freelance writing. He has successfully self-published over 10 books and eBooks. Visit his Amazon Author Page to see list of his most recent projects.