How to Get Your Butt in the Chair

A few weeks ago, we here at The Million Words met for our yearly writing retreat. It’s a fabulous affair where we are able to meet in person, have our work viewed by some of the well established writers that have taken us under their wings, and motivate each other to work harder, better, faster, stronger.

I’ll give you a minute to stop humming Daft Punk…

We good? Great!

This year’s retreat was absolutely amazing, and the opportunities hit us all like a freaking freight train, let me tell ya. Several new projects were birthed, all of which you guys will be privy to just as soon as we are able to let our adoring fans in on the fun. For the three of you reading, you should definitely feel special.

I most certainly was not left out of the opportunity smorgasbord, and as any of you who follow me on Facebook will know, I’ve been working tirelessly to make it happen. I can’t talk about it yet, but I’m seriously hoping to have amazing news for all of you soon.

If you needed more reason to keep up with us here at the The Million Words, well I just gave it to you.

The excitement of this new project has cranked my motivations so high, I’ve broken the freaking meters. The best thing about this is that I’ve finally, once and for all, established a routine for myself. Yeah, yeah, I know I talked about a routine before here, but lets be honest. It’s really hard to get a routine together. So I want to pass along what’s been working for me.

First off, back in February I switched jobs. With my new job, not only do I have a better paycheck, I have a regular schedule. 12:45pm to 8:00pm. Monday through Friday. This has worked wonders towards letting me schedule my time to write. For those of you looking to make writing your main career like I am, I would most definitely recommend finding a day job with regular hours.

So here’s what my day looks like. I wake up at 8:30am all week. Then I get ready for work. I shower, brush my teeth, and get dressed, which entails a button down and a tie for the new job. I even do my hair.

This has been a huge part of keeping myself going, and staying motivated when I sit down to write. Getting dressed for work when I sit down to write puts me in the “Get crap done” mind set. I’ve tried writing in pajamas, and comfortable clothes, and I find that it just makes me want to curl up with a good book, or watch some TV a whole lot more than it makes me want to work.

After getting ready, making my coffee, etc. I sit down to work. I shoot for being in the chair by 9:00am, but generally I’m not sitting down until 9:30am. Then between then and about 11:30am, I work. I don’t worry about word count, I just get as much done in that time as I can.
I’m on week four of this schedule, and I’ve been more productive within the last month than I have in my entire career. I’ve been averaging between 1000 and 2000 words during this time, with 2000 being a good day. I’ve kinda naturally settled into 1000 words a day being my goal, because I’ve found it pretty easy to hit this mark.

When I hit that 11:30am stopping point, I copy the last couple hundred words or so that I’ve written, and email it to myself. Then, while I’m on break at work, I pull up that email and shoot for a couple hundred more words. I write that portion directly into the email, and when I get home I copy and paste those work words into the actual Scrivener file. I can generally get another 300 to 900 words during those break times, bringing my average daily word count to between 1500 and 2500 words.

This project will hopefully span several books, and I began by writing the Synopses for the first 4. This has helped me immensely. Writing those Synopses let me get to know the characters that I’m writing about, as well as letting me see the ways in which they are going to grow. It’s vastly improved not only my productivity, but my writing as well. I feel that I can better portray my characters, and I simply know the story better than when I’ve been working with just the synopsis for the story I was currently working on.

Now, this is a routine geared more towards someone who is looking to make writing their full time profession. Also, what’s worked for me won’t necessarily work for others, but let me go ahead and address some of the issues one might raise regarding this routine.

Issue 1: I’m most definitely not a morning person, so getting up early won’t work for me.

Answer: Dear Lord, do you think that I am? I detest getting up early, but I’m doing it because I want to be published, and I’m tired of making the excuses for not having writing time. So my question to you is, how badly do you want it?

Issue 2: I work 40 hours a week.

Answer: Me too. Next.

Issue 3: I have housework and a family to take care of, I can’t schedule time like this along with everything else.

Answer: This one is subjective. While I don’t have kids, I do have a rather needy elderly father that I am the soul caretaker of, so I get it. He never has more questions or things that he wants me to look at than when I’m just sitting down to work. It’s hard. I understand. But there’s not a damn writer out there that ever said this life is. So the best advice I can give you. Try. Stay up a few hours later if you need. Write while on break. But at least try.

Well there you have it everyone. That’s how I’ve been writing more than I ever have before in my career. It’s kept me absolutely exhausted, and I couldn’t be happier. In all aspects my life is heading the direction that I want, and for once I feel like I’m in control of my own career.
So what works for you guys? Tell me a bit about your routines in the comments below. Or if you have questions, post those as well. I promise I have an answer. Whether or not it will be helpful, well that’s another matter.

Comments 1

  • That’s a great strategy and routine, Alex. I’ve just been squeezing it into my commute time on the bus/train/etc. And before bed. I agree, dressing for writing definitely puts a person in the professional mindset.

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