Ever since my daughter was born in 1985, children have fascinated me. As a mother, I realized that my children responded much better when they were surrounded by routines in which they could rely upon. The routines provided a sense of safety and comfort in which my children could flourish. As a writer, I have come to realize that I, too, respond much better when I have routines in place to help nurture my creativity. Here is the routine I use to foster the writer within me.
1. Brew a cup a tea. I always begin my writing sessions with a hot cup of black chai with rice milk. My cup of tea serves as a “warm and fuzzy blanket” that I sometimes need when I work.
2. Tidy desk. Do not confuse this with a major cleaning in order to procrastinate. Rather, I make sure that my desk does not have any distractions within my reach or view. I love a tidy space and work much better when my environment is clutter-free.
3. Shut off email. Hello, my name is Lisa and I am an email addict. There, I said it. In order for me to focus on writing and not on my email, I have to turn off my wireless connection. Period. Otherwise, the temptation to peek to too great.
4. Turn off spell and grammar check during composition sessions. When I first began writing in earnest, I tried to ignore the green and red squiggly lines that emerged on my paper every few seconds. However, because of my addictive nature (see #3), I could not. Since turning off that function, my writing has become much more enjoyable and expressive.
5. Set a timer. I set a timer for 35-minutes every time I write. Huge expanses of time paralyze me; however, small chunks of time do not. In fact, I am far more productive when I set the timer three or four times during a session than if I sit down for a 2-hour block.
6. Remove distractions. I turn off my cell phone and make sure my animals have what they need. If the landline rings, I let the machine pick it up. I consider writing time “sacred” time; therefore I eliminate as many potential distractions as possible.
7. Review the day’s purpose for writing. Before I type one word, I make sure I am clear on the purpose for the day’s writing. If I do not have a clear purpose, I then tell myself that today is an exploratory writing day and give myself permission to just free write.
8. Imagine the audience. Once my purpose has been established, I imagine my audience. I try to picture people I actually know who can fill the role. For me, writing to someone specific provides the motivation I need to keep writing.
9. End with gratitude. Once my writing session is complete, I just send out an expression of gratitude to the ether. I am truly grateful for the gift of writing and never want to take it for granted.
10. Schedule the next writing session. I keep a spiral notebook next to my desk that contains each day’s “to do” list. After I complete a writing session, I commit to the time I will write on the next day and set the purpose for writing thus priming me throughout the day for the next session.
Though possibly counterintuitive, establishing routines nourishes creativity. This routine has helped me gain more confidence as a writer and complete the most daunting writing tasks.