Today, I’ve been thinking about what it would take for me to have a routine that I stick to each day. If you have a routine, especially as a writer – turning up at the same time in the same place each day – the logic goes that you’ll get more done. As a serial procrastinator, I’ve been finding this very difficult, despite how much I wish I had a routine, and would turn up at my laptop each and every day (at least during the week), and write something. I’ve got a novel waiting to be finished and begging for a bit more shape, I’ve got articles to pitch, I’ve got short stories I want to write and writing exercises I want to try. The pile of ‘writing exercises’ books and writing advice books I’ve collected is simply amazing and I want to use them properly! My attention is all over the place at the moment – a huge pile of ‘to-do’ and tasks I have to get on with. I’m thinking a change of scenery will do me good – I’m off to Scotland for a few days and I also have the wedding of one of my best friends coming up. So I think next week will be a chance to recharge.
My ideal routine would probably consist of getting up around 7.30am, having a relaxed breakfast, having a shower and being ready by 9.30 in front of my laptop. Then I would write for the best part of the day, with regular breaks for reading/going for a walk/tea. Of course, other things are important and necessary, like emailing editors with pitches/query letters, answering emails, marketing yourself and connecting with others via social networking. I guess the wishing, the fantasy, is not necessarily the best way to go about it if you want to run a freelance writing business, because you have to give time to different things, and you don’t always know what is going to come up until the last moment. Constantly checking my email probably wouldn’t do me any favours. I already have a worrying addiction to Twitter and should probably (!) spend less time tweeting and more time writing.
I guess this is where a business plan comes in. At the moment, the business plan consists of defining what my ‘niches’ are. However, I find this a bit unhelpful because I like to feel the freedom that comes with researching almost anything and writing about whatever catches my interest. I suppose if you want to market a business, you need to have something that people are drawn to – and just saying that you’re a ‘Writer’, a jack-of-all-topics, doesn’t really cut it. Unfortunately people seem to need categorising, if you’re trying to sell a service or business. Most of all, though, I’m doing a business plan because it is helping me to focus on what my skills are, what needs improving, where I want to be in 3 years, 10 years and 20 years, what my goals and dreams are, what magazines, newspapers and publications I can pitch to, and so on. It is helpful because it takes that wish I have to have a routine, and helps me to put it into practical terms.
I know that I will need to focus on different things each day, or even each hour, if I want to get things done. I will need to break my day into different things – sometimes to spend time on social networking/emailing and blogging, other times to focus on my fiction and article writing. It will take a lot of time and dedication, but having a business plan will help me to focus. Focus is something I need right now, in order to prioritise and find the right state of mind. Perhaps there is some truth in how people’s focus and concentration is much more fragmentary now than it used to be. I know that having my phone near me when I’m working or reading is a recipe for disaster – as I’ll end up checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr. Maybe knowing my weaknesses is good because at least I’m not oblivious to them, and can take steps to change them.
At the moment, I’m reading a number of books to help me figure it all out. Some of them are about Freelancing, and others are about writing, finishing a novel and writing exercises. The one that I’m finding interesting so far is The Renegade Writer, which is about breaking rules, and dispelling myths of the freelancing life. Its helping me to feel a bit more confident at pitching to newspapers and magazines that I might not have thought would accept my writing. I guess the moral here is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know, and that you shouldn’t give up trying. Its hard to feel confidence when you’re thinking you want to pitch to a national newspaper, but I think the trick is to remember that they are always looking for new content, and new voices. Its normal to be a bit afraid of pitching to nationals, but editors are usually willing to at least consider good ideas and well researched pitches/query emails. So I think it is time for me to bite the bullet and take a chance. Even if they reject the first idea, there’s nothing to stop you trying again with something different.
The balance between wishing for something, and being practical about it doesn’t mean you’re not being optimistic, just that you have to think about what you can realistically achieve in any given amount of time. I’m trying not to do everything all at once, and put writing first, trying to finish things, and resist that constant resistance beloved of creatives everywhere. I assumed I would need to start from scratch if I stopped writing fiction for a period of time, but I think for me, diving in head first again seems to be working bit by bit. You work through it, pushing past it everyday. Then you try new things to challenge yourself a bit. Trying new things keeps it interesting, so you’re not stuck in a rut and feeling blocked again. What works for you? Its good to try different things and shake up the routine a bit, just as its important to find a balance between what routine feels best for you, and what gets things done.
If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival. ~ Flannery O’Connor.