Should you create a writing routine or just write when you’re inspired?

A great writer, some sources say it was William Faulkner, once said, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

I love this quote because it speaks to the power – and necessity – of creating a writing routine.

Waiting for inspiration to hit before you write isn’t going to help you achieve your writing goals. But creating and sticking to a writing routine will.

You can finally create a writing regimen of your own with these simple steps.

Step 1 – Find your magic hour.

Figure out what time of day you do your best writing and plan your day around that.

I know that I do my best writing first thing in the morning. That’s why when I was still an English teacher, I would wake up at 4 a.m. – every day — so that I could get in an hour of writing before going to work.

I’m not saying you need to get up dark and early like I did, but I am saying you need to be committed. Perhaps you will write during your lunch break or at night before bed. Do you, boo. But add your writing time to your planner and treat it like an appointment that you can’t break.

Step 2 — Set a goal and a deadline.

Being an intentional writer will help you be a more productive one. You need a plan for each writing session. Sometimes – especially when you’re first getting started with writing – it’s perfectly fine to use your writing time to journal or to do some free-writing. You could try the morning pages regimen recommended in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way:

…three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. [Morning pages] are not high art. They are not even ‘writing’. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only.”

As you grow as a writer, you’ll want to set a more specific goal with a deadline. For example, if you’re trying to write a book you could set a word count goal for each day that will allow you to finish your manuscript by your deadline.

Step 3 – Find your writing bestie to help you stick with your writing routine.

Writers need other writers. Period. Join a writing community like the See Jane Write Network and find an accountability partner.

You can your writing bestie could write together on a Zoom call or you could just have her text you to make sure you’re sticking with your writing routine.

Your writing community and your writing bestie will encourage you to keep going after your goals and will celebrate with you when you reach them.

Step 4 – Share your writing routine with your family and friends.

If you have children or if you’re a caretaker for a sick or elderly parent or another relative, you will need support from family or friends. You will need people willing to help you out so that you can have the time and space you’ll need to write. Share your writing goals with friends and family members that you trust so that they can have your back.

Step 5 – Create a writing space.

Find a workspace where you can write without interruptions. A home office is perfect, but if you don’t have one don’t think that all hope is lost. Before my husband and I became homeowners, I did all of my writing at our dining room table. I have friends who are moms who write in the bathroom! If writing at home is too tough, try to get away and write at your favorite library or coffee shop.

Step 6 — Be ready to beat writer’s block.

If it’s time to write and you find yourself staring at a blank page or a blinking cursor have resources on hand to get your muse moving.

Try writing prompts or turn to a book about writing for inspiration. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott 
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard
  • Word. On Being a Woman Writer edited by Jocelyn Burrell
  • Writing from the Body by John Lee
  • The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
  • What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Pamela Painter & Anne Bernays

Step 7 – Be willing to write in the margins.

While having a writing routine is important, it’s equally important to have a “by any means necessary” attitude toward your craft. That means that you’re going to write even if your routine was wrecked. That means you’re willing to write in the margins of your day if needed.

Related Reading: How to Make Time to Write and Blog

Yes, in a perfect world you would write for one or two hours every day before or after work or before bed. You’d write in your home office at your perfectly organized desk with the scent of the candle that you snagged at the Bath & Body Works semi-annual sale wafting through the air. And if you can actually commit to a writing practice like this, go for it. But this isn’t the only way. 

I have a friend who wrote her novel while she was pumping breast milk. I have another friend who pulls her car over when inspiration hits and writes on the side of the road. And nearly everything I’ve published in the last year started as thoughts collected in the Notes app of my phone. 

Whatever it takes – girl, just write!