the writer’s routine


We writers often find it fascinating to find out what kind of “routines” our favorite writers maintain as they write.  When I was in grad school, I remember overhearing many conversations about this, and hearing many students ask this question, repeatedly, to visiting writers, as well as the writers who mentored us.  Personally, I have never had much need for this kind of thing – it has never seemed highly relevant to me, or important,  how my beloved writers worked: How many hours a day? / Standing up, sitting down? / With music, or without? / In a cafe? At home? In a small room? In the midst of bustle? …

…All I have ever cared about, is that they spent the time, and hard work that was necessary, to send their gifts out into the world – allowing us, me!, to benefit.  I spend a great deal of time with my nose in a book, and the gratitude I feel for these wordsmiths (for artists of every persuasion) is immense…and I would very much like to join their club.  And hopefully, that will soon come to fruition :) After many years, hours, and re-writes, I have finished my novel A Burden of Light and I am in the process of preparing it for publication.  So just for fun, I thought I would jot down some of my routines, and if any writers out there care to respond with routines of your own, I’ll add them to the site for inspiration to other writers out there.


*I write in the morning – I enjoy this time of day the best for working.  My head is clear, the world is quiet, and my kids are at school:)  Before kids, I would wake at 4 am, and write then…which is my preference.  The world always felt like it belonged to me, just me, so still and silent. (I get to bed too late now, sneaking quiet time to read – so waking up before 6 is a little rough on my body. I get too grouchy with my kids – so…one learns to adapt)

*Tea.  I make a pot of herbal tea, or Sencha, a beautiful tea that I get at a local tea house in Pasadena, and fill my handmade pot (a gift from my dear sister Mary) and begin my work.

*I don’t listen to music – I find it a distraction to hearing what’s happening upstairs in my head.  But I can write in coffee houses, amid bustle and noise and whirring espresso makers…that kind of sound, daily sounds, do not interrupt me at all.

*With my first novel, I wrote the first draft freely, one long continuous movement forward.  It made for a lovely writing experience, that ever forward progression – but it also made my re-write process a little more…prickly.  I am at work on my next novel and I will proceed as I did with my re-write of Burden… begin my morning by re-reading the work from the day prior, cleaning up the kinks, and then moving on.

*I stop writing when I know where I’m going – that way, the next day begins with greater ease, and at least a moment, of certainty.

*I have a sweet little space in our garage, a small room that makes me feel happy to be in, and to write in.  I fill it with newspaper clippings, postcards, drawings, quotes, magazine articles, photographs, etc…things that I can turn and look at, and be reminded of my connection with other artists who have done, and continue to do, this very same thing: spend great periods of time, alone, creating.

For those of you who are interested – I just stumbled across a brilliant site that is dedicated to this very thing – the routines of famous writers.  The site is called The Daily Routines of Famous Writers and I highly recommend it.  It’s a gorgeous site – and incredibly inspiring :)


One thought on “the writer’s routine”

  1. Hey, finally got to read this post and reply. Made me smile to read about the tea pot. In some ways, the “what’s your routine?” question really is a funny one. But it’s one that always gets asked of writers, and songwriters, too. I liked your tip about stopping at a point when you can see where you’re going so it’s easier to pick up again the next day. That’s a good one. My creative writing focuses almost entirely on lyrics and poetry so the energy and rhythm of a setting is often one of the most important things that supports my process. For me that usually means being outside, walking, observing, seeing objects and people and faces and interactions and little moments that create some kind of emotion and meaning. Keeps me more succinct, too! (usually).

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