This week’s blog is a guest post by literary dynamo, Ramona DeFelice Long about her writing routine.
It is 6:45 a.m. and I am sitting in my writing spot. My coffee is poured, and my daily biscotti indulgence is ready to be unwrapped. I have already checked my email, posted on Facebook, and revised my 10 things per day to-do list. A lot can be accomplished in the wee hours of the morning if you are a lark like me.
In a few minutes, I will open my laptop to my work in progress. I will write for one hour because that’s how much time I can devote to writing today. I am in the middle of an editing job and my website needs updating and I must prepare a new bio for a conference workshop in May. This not atypical. It’s normal for someone making a career in the publishing industry.
I have a few pre-writing prep steps: I set my phone’s alarm for 5 minutes, and then I close my eyes and breathe. I do this slowly, methodically, while my alert and busy mind empties and slows. It took me years to learn to quiet my brain so I can shift from the frantic call of all that needs to be done, to the ability to sit still and do it. The five minutes go quickly. I’ve been awake for more than an hour, but when the phone alarm goes off, I feel as if I’m newly awake all over again.
Next, I record what I plan to write in the hour ahead—only that, what I think I can accomplish in 60 minutes—in my daily writing journal. Just as with the 5-minute meditation and the 10 things only to-do list, I’ve learned to think about writing in small increments. What can I accomplish in one hour? Maybe a new scene, or revise an old one. I don’t plan to write a full chapter because I know I can’t do that in an hour, but I can do a single scene. In my notebook, I write the date and “swimming championship scene.” 3 words. I don’t describe the action or the characters. I know that in my head. The act of recording this small goal is a promise to myself to do it. Every day, I set a small goal writing goal I know I can accomplish in my hour.
It is almost time. I settle into my chair, position my coffee, open the laptop, find my place in the manuscript. When the digital clock clicks to 7:00, I am ready to go. I don’t need to warm up because my body recognizes this place, this position, this task. I am here every morning, so it recognizes my morning routine as muscle memory.
This hour is the foundation of my writing routine. During my writing hour, I won’t answer the phone, peek at email, post on Facebook, glance at the TV. No distractions or interruptions. It’s one hour out of 24, but this one-hour increment is the foundation of my routine.
Routine. Habit. Muscle memory. Establishing a regular writing practice means finding a place and time that works for your life, and dedicating yourself to sitting in that spot for a set amount of time. The time and location are different for everyone but the mission is the same: find a time, a place, choose a length of time, and go there every day. Turn off interruptions. Write for a doable amount of time. Devote an increment of your day to writing.
If writing is important to you, treat it that way. Plus, there is a reward. No matter what happens the rest of the day, if you’ve written for an hour in the morning, nothing can take that away.
Do it. Do it for you.
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Ramona DeFelice Long works as an author, editor, and writing instructor. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary and regional publications, and she is active in the Delaware arts scene. In 2016, she was awarded a Masters Fellowship in Fiction from the Delaware Division of the Arts. She maintains a literary blog at www.ramonadef.com. Check out the National Endowment for the Arts’ United States of Arts map for her story as an artist.