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Spoiler Alert: It’s An Iterative Process
If you want to be a writer, one of the best ways to start is to create a sustainable writing routine. What exactly do we mean by “sustainable?” It’s simple: string together a series of activities that you can complete every day for an extended period of time. Doing so forces you to practice your craft while also building better habits for the future.
William Frazier @williamfrazr has been in the freelancing game for over 10 years now and shares his top tips on how he has built a successful writing routine.
Here is what his routine looks like:
- Journal (5 mins)
- Read (30 mins)
- Write — articles for blog (30 mins)
- Answer 3 questions on Quora
- Meditate (10 mins)
- Write — book (1 hour)
I’ll be the first to admit, this routine doesn’t always happen first thing in the morning. Like you, I’m human and I tend to not always make the best decisions. For example, I’ve recently discovered Mr. Robot, an amazing show on Amazon Prime, which means I’ve been staying up a little too late.
When this happens, I have a hard time getting up early in the morning. During these days, I may not start this routine until 9am or 10am. On occasion, I may even knock out other work before and start my routine around noon.
Regardless of where it falls in the day, I always keep this routine intact, from beginning to end. Since I work for myself, it helps establish consistency and allows me to check in each and every day. Without this time, I would probably feel unsettled and my day would be much more chaotic.
When I first started, this routine looked very different. In fact, it only consisted of a 30-minute writing session. As I continued, I tweaked my routine by adding in an activity and trying it out for a week or two.
After 2+ years, I’ve gotten to the point where each activity plays an intentional part and has a clear purpose within the routine as a whole. In order to demonstrate what that is…
Let me break things down even more:
- Journaling — I’ve never been to therapy (I’m sure I could use it), but if I had to guess, writing in my journal gives me many of the same benefits. Even though I only spend five minutes each morning, it’s more than enough time to quickly check in with myself. Each session looks the same: I start by exploring how I’m feeling in the moment, I capture any questions I need to be answered, and finally wrap up by quickly jotting down three actions I can take that will make the biggest difference in the future. If you ask me, the biggest benefit comes at the end of the day when I look back and reflect on what I wrote. I start to notice patterns in the way I think as well as which tasks I’m completing and which continue to remain incomplete (I write a checkmark if I accomplish the task or an X if I don’t).
- News — On a civic level, I have come to realize how important it is to remain informed with what is going on, both on a domestic and international stage. Not only do I have a better understanding of how the world works, I’m able to have intelligent conversations with others based on how to make it work even better. This also provides valuable insight for my writing, whether for myself or others.
- Reading — If you’re like me, then you enjoyed reading as a kid. I remember staying up late, bleary-eyed, struggling to finish books from the Animorphs and Magic Tree House series. As I transitioned into high school and college, required reading seemed to put a damper on my childhood excitement. Fortunately, I rekindled my passion for reading soon after I started my routine. I’ve worked for myself since graduating college which means this passion developed into an unquenchable need to learn from others. This is probably why I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction books, at least during this morning reading session. Thanks to this endless stream of information, I have more than enough material to draw from when it comes to writing. I am also able to digest and pick apart the perspectives of others while reading.
- Writing (articles) — This is where it all started. I never thought doing anything for 30 minutes a day could change my life so much. What started as an idea for a book about design, entrepreneurship, and education evolved into various articles about making ideas happen. Before I felt “ready,” I decided to start publishing and sharing them with others via Medium and other social media sites. This has been my single greatest opportunity for growth each day. Not only do I have a chance to organize and share my thoughts, I also receive valuable feedback in the form of comments from an engaged community of readers.
- Answer 3 Questions on Quora — I’m definitely behind the curve on this one. Even though this popular question and answer site launched back in 2009, it’s still a fan favorite for writers online today. After noticing the impact Quora made in the early days of other writers, I created an account and started answering questions related to blogging, freelancing, entrepreneurship, and other familiar topics. After only a few days, I was hooked. Not only does Quora allow you to help others, it also allows you to build an audience around your answers and blog posts. Writing in order to solve the problems of others is an underrated skill that is definitely worth improving upon.
- Meditate — If you ask me, everyone could benefit by focusing more on mental health each day. Since adding 10 minutes of meditation, I tend to feel calmer and more centered throughout the rest of the day. I tend to slot these 10 minutes directly before writing for my book, which usually lasts at least 45 minutes to an hour. Meditation puts me in the right mindset for longer, more focused writing and helps me use the time more efficiently.
- Writing (book) — I devote my final chunk of writing time each morning to my first book. Since it takes a little longer to hit my stride than during my article writing, I usually aim for at least an hour each day. This may not sound like enough time to devote to a book, but it allows me to make progress each day, no matter how small. This forward momentum helps keep my routine intact, no matter what is thrown at me.
After a few years and plenty of trial and error, this routine is a non-negotiable part of my day that I consider to be extremely sacred. As always, I have the occasional slip up where I may not complete the entire routine but, like most things in life, all that matters is that I keep trying to instill productive habits that will serve me better in the future.