When a Writing Routine isn’t Essential

Writing routines are a beautiful way to help keep us motivated and on task. However, what happens if you can’t stick to your routine? Do you  just not write?

In today’s article I talk about my personal experience without my precious writing routine, the benefits to a writing routine,  why worrying about a threatened routine actually does your creative self more harm than good, and why you can relax in those instances when you can’t stick to your schedule.

When a Writing Routine Isn't Essential | Kate Johnston | Writing Coach | Editor


Last week my family went on vacation. This is fairly unusual in that it was a non-working vacation. I did not bring my laptop or any writing material. I brought a book. To read. For pleasure.

Very, very unusual.

As a freelance writer + editor with no staff to pawn off tasks, and a MOM, I am pretty much in some state of “work” every day, throughout the day, from dawn to bedtime. If I’m not writing, I’m editing. If I’m not editing, I’m researching. If I’m not researching, I’m social media-ing. If I’m not on FB, IG, or answering emails, I am cooking-cleaning-chauffeuring . . . you get my drift.

All working parents know—there is no true downtime.

We have to force ourselves to take a break even when we have a dishwasher to unload or a bathroom to clean or laundry to sort.

For those of us who WRITE in amongst all of the above ^^^ our schedules become even more frenetic and stressful.

I am a firm believer in building a writing routine that incorporates some kind of writing EVERY DAY. Creativity is like a muscle, and that muscle cannot function at 100% unless we are exercising it daily.

We all have a creative self, which is as much a part of our whole makeup as our emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical selves. For that reason, our creative selves need nourishment like all the other selves. We wouldn’t go a day without water, food, or sleep if we want to stay healthy—well, then we shouldn’t go a day without creating either.

A writing routine is a perfect solution to nourishing our creativity because once we establish the habit then it barely takes much effort to slip our writing into our day. It’s as much a part of our schedule as eating lunch or checking email.

The benefits that result from a writing routine are pretty obvious. We:

  • Meet our goals faster
  • Learn the craft
  • Improve our skills
  • Feed the temperamental Muse
  • …and more depending on each writer’s particular vision.

We writers tend to worry when we’re faced with the threat of interruptions to our work.

  • What if I lose focus?
  • Will the story ideas stop coming?
  • Could I lose momentum?
  • What if I don’t like my story once I get back to it?
  • What if what if what if what if ???

I was like this. Many, many, many moons ago. I was so afraid of interruptions slowing me down that I tightly held onto my writing time as though it was a treasure box full of gold. Every time something came up that took me out of my zone, I panicked, because I was so afraid that I was losing precious time, that my inspiration was taking too many beatings it would fail to fire on all cylinders.

Turned out, the bigger problem was actually my fear and limiting belief that I could only write one way and one way only. This mindset is not growth-centered at all. It’s prohibitive. It meant that I was absolutely unable to write anything unless I was at my desk during my preferred writing session.

When a Writing Routine isn’t Essential

While having a dedicated writing habitat is wonderful for those of us who flourish in our self-designed spaces, we need to always remember that inspiration is EVERYWHERE. We should not be afraid that being pulled from our desks is going to hinder us forever.

Sure, interruptions can create confusion and hiccups. However, rather than believe we’re bound to suffer eternally for it, we need to think about how we can turn interruption into opportunity.

We can still create, even when we’re away from the comfort of our writing space. Daydreaming and visualizing a particular scene in our work-in-progress (WIP) over and over until we have memorized every fine detail is probably one of the BEST ways to write out-of-pocket.

While in Puerto Rico during long tour bus rides, and on the airplane, I daydreamed my story. In fact, these opportunities to rely on my visualizations helped me with the setting for my next book. I was inspired by the tropical oasis of Puerto Rico as well as some conversations I shared with fellow tourists. I would never have imagined this particular setting if it weren’t for my vacation and that I wrote with my eyes and ears open to my real-world surroundings.

Inspiration is EVERYWHERE. And that means story ideas are everywhere as well. Observation is your friend and Imagination will never let you down once you give it a fighting chance.

Now I’m back home and in my cozy study re-engaging with my writing routine. I’m able to transfer the setting and story ideas I visualized to words and expanded concepts in a notebook.

I lost no time to write, despite having no time to write. Isn’t that a peculiar but magical thing?

What do you do when you’re not able to actively write even when you want to?

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