Routine, Writing, Productivity, and Accountability

Other writers may be successful by following their whims, but for me, routine is the secret to productivity. That means that when nothing disrupts my routine, I can get a lot accomplished. Unfortunately, it also means that disruptions to my routine (travel or illness, for example), can leave me trying to jump back on the routine-wagon for weeks. But I’ve recently re-established my routine. It goes something like this.

  1. Wake up at 7 a.m. (no exceptions).
  2. Read writerly publications from 7 – 7:30 a.m.
  3. Blog
  4. Write until 8:45 a.m. (work on my novel, attempt a short story, prepare material for submission or submit. Stipulation: this is not a time for paid writing–although if someone will pay me for it down the line, so much the better. Paid writing falls under “work.”)
  5. Shower.
  6. Begin paid work at 9 a.m.
  7. Turn off computer at 9 p.m. (I NEVER do this one, as many friends who have received late-night emails from me can attest.)

So, why am I writing this on my blog for all the world to see? It’s not because the Internet is oh-so-interested in the details of my mornings.  No, it’s because accountability is the secret of success. It’s easy to come up with grand schemes and plans. It’s harder to put those plans into effect, especially if they only exist in your own mind. Get them into someone else’s mind–pronto.

Waking up in the morning is probably the hardest part of my day, but I’m so much more productive if I get an early start. I shared the necessity of an early start with a visiting friend, compelling him “not to let me” go back to sleep after the alarm had gone of. He didn’t. When I was finishing my most recent novel, I must have told my writers group three or four times that “Next month I’ll be sending the end.” Once I’d said that, it increased my accountability to finish the dang thing. I went several months without finishing it when I predicted that I would–and each time, I sent my most recent work through a little shame-faced.

Tell someone you’re writing a novel so that they’ll ask you from time to time, “How’s that novel coming?” Share your goal of being published so that you’ll have to face the agonizing question, “So, have you been published yet?” Tell these things to your most nagging friends, or the ones you least like to disappoint, or even the ones that make you feel a little inferior. I’m not a fan of shame in most of my life — but a little shame can go a long way when it comes to meeting your writing goals.*

* But nobody’s perfect. When you don’t follow through on something, forgive yourself (and the person who asked you about it), resolve to do better in the future, and move on.