If you’re a brand-new writer, you may be so excited by your first project that you enthusiastically lock yourself in your office or run away to the coffee shop at every opportunity. The rush of watching the ideas in your head take shape on the page is satisfying and addicting. But, like anything else, eventually a little bit of the shine wears off.
Writing is my job now. I’m working on my seventh novel. I’ve published numerous short-stories and I’ve taken on free-lance editorial projects. I teach workshops and write for magazines and blogs. I love my work, but it’s definitely a job. Even friends of mine, who still hold different day jobs but are working on their third or fourth novel, recognize that their writing can sometimes feel more like a slog than an exciting adventure.
So, how do we keep things fresh? How do we stay productive and creative even when we feel sluggish or the work feels daunting? There are many great bits of encouraging writing advice out there. Some of it will resonate at different times in your writing career. As we head into the winter months, my advice today will be about discovering and working with your natural rhythms.
Assess your daily work schedule.
Ask yourself when you feel most task oriented versus most creative. Are you able to organize your day accordingly? For example, I prefer to answer emails and deal with busy tasks in the morning, leaving a stretch of the afternoon for drafting or editing. I need uninterrupted hours for creative work, and I need to feel like my busy work is attended to in order to focus. You may feel super creative when you wake up in the morning. Can you build an hour or two into your early morning routine dedicated to writing?
Consider the week ahead.
It helps me to sit down on Sunday afternoons and look at my week ahead. I pencil in deadlines and appointments, and from there I determine how much time I need to finish my work. I’ve also learned to plan a slower day on Friday, but to build creative writing time into my weekend. The more proactive I am with my planning, the more I feel in control of my time. Establishing a weekly rhythm that honors my energy level and time constraints keeps me working at my maximum potential when I have the most to give.
I’ll admit to being obsessive about planning and using my calendar, but my organizational strategies keep me productive and balanced. For more ideas on time management, check out this post: 5 Tips on Time Management – A Busy Writer’s Guide.
You have a seasonal rhythm too.
Over time, I’ve recognized a macro rhythm in my professional life. For example, I am most productive creating new content in the fall. My travel schedule ramps up in the spring and summer. And in the winter, well, I really struggle. Once I embraced this truth, and found ways to work with it rather than fight it, I stopped feeling like I’d wasted a whole season.
Consider that maybe it’s okay to prefer one season to another, or to recognize you are more energized at certain times of the year and plan your larger project calendar accordingly. During the winter, I focus more on marketing, sales, and promotional work, less on creating a ton of content. Maybe you love winter and feel energized by the falling snow and crisp air. Possibly summer is your down time. Try reverse engineering the above suggestions.
We can’t always be on top of our game, so instead of fighting our natural writing rhythm, we can try to make it work for us.