This week, it was my turn to provide the blog’s writing prompt. My question was, “Has anything about your writing routine changed since you first began?”
Although I submitted this topic a few months ago, it’s the perfect time for me to answer, because my routine has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. I’ll explain in a bit. First, let’s break down “writing routine” into a few different headings.
I used to write at the kitchen table. It was the best place for me to sit for extended periods of time, and it was the quietest place in the house, once my husband went to bed. After my daughters grew up and moved out, I converted one of the bedrooms into an extra bedroom and office (we rarely have overnight guests, so I didn’t have to give up my office too often). As of last week, we’re in a new place with a dedicated OFFICE for me! Right now, I am happily typing away in a room where the TV isn’t blaring, and there isn’t a bed three steps away beckoning me to take a nap.
I used to be a pantser. When I started writing my first book I wrote whatever popped into my mind. I soon discovered that a lot of words I wrote didn’t move the story forward. Now that I’ve learned how to plot stories, I waste a lot less time. I normally have a vague idea about the main characters and their general conflict, but until I sit down and figure out the goals, motivation, and conflict (if you’re not familiar with this technique, check out the book by Deb Dixon) of each of the protagonists and plan a bit of how they’re going to get from the beginning to the end, I try not to get too deep into the story.
When I first started writing stories, I would sit down late at night, after the kids were in bed. Or I would snatch a half hour in the morning before they got up. During school vacations, I’d get a lot more done. I looked forward to retirement, when I could write whenever I wanted, for as long as I liked. I thought it would be like a constant vacation! Well, I retired and the endless hours of writing didn’t happen. I continued to work – part time at two different jobs – to help the kids out with school expenses (like food). I got involved in hobby groups – sewing, scrapbooking, and card-making, as well as two orchestras and a community band.
I discovered that I need dedicated time to write. It needs to be scheduled in, like a job. I have to do the same with my hobbies. Scrapbooking doesn’t happen unless I’m in a room with other scrapbookers. Music doesn’t happen unless I’m sitting in a rehearsal. Writing retreats have helped in the past. The university where I teach hosts a week-long faculty writing retreat three times a year, and I always sign up. I’ve also joined several weekend retreats, which are fun as well as productive. It’s wonderful to have people handy who are willing to brainstorm a solution to a plot problem, do a chapter or scene critique, or come up with the perfect name for a character! With social restrictions in the past year and a half, both of my writing groups have switched to Zoom meetings for our monthly meetings as well as write-ins. One group has three Zoom gatherings a week! We meet at the top of the hour and state what we want to work on, then check in at the top of the next hour to report how we did. This process continues for three to four hours, and they were effective for me. It was also a chance to catch up on each others’ news outside of writing.
Unfortunately, my husband’s health has declined quite rapidly in recent months, and he needs constant attention. I haven’t been able to participate in the Zoom write-ins because they always seem to fall when we’re at the hospital or meeting with one doctor or another. Weekend gatherings are out of the question until I know that he can take care of himself for that long, which may not be for quite some time, if ever. So my writing now takes a back seat to his daily needs and outside errands that must be done – like getting the oil changed in the car while he’s napping, or picking up groceries while waiting for prescriptions. Writing happens when it happens, in very short spurts.
As in all things, time marches on and things change. But it does no good to complain. I could grab a snippet of the Bob Dylan song referred to in the title to this post, but I found one that more accurately expresses my outlook. Ekhart Tolle wrote: “Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” I’m waiting to see what this something new will be.