I know that routine is a dirty word in a world where freedom and spontaneity rule, but I am here to buck the trend (as I do most trends, now that I think about it).
Routines may not be cool. They may not photograph well on Instagram. They may not make you popular. But, oh my goodness, do they help you to get your work done when you are a freelance writer – or a writer of any kind.
I learnt the value of routine very early in my freelancing career. I quickly realised that if I slept until I felt like it, faffed about in cafes whenever I could and wafted about doing ‘stuff’, I would be very poor. It takes only a few missed deadlines or a few all-nighters trying to cobble together a story without enough information for a new freelance writer to understand the importance of getting up, getting dressed and getting on with it.
When I had my first baby, it took me less than three months to get back to my desk because I followed a boring baby routine from day one. It did not suit me most days. I didn’t go out much. I did not want to have to be home at 12pm or whenever to put him in his cot for a sleep, but I did it. I put up with screaming for a short time at bedtime, because he soon worked out that going to sleep was all there was. And soon, I had a window in the middle of the day, and a set night-time bedtime that I could rely on. Which meant that I could get some work done.
Now my routines are obviously different, but I still have them. “Come for coffee,” say my friends after school drop-off. “Sorry,” I respond. “Have to get back to my desk – but let’s book it in for next Tuesday.” Seriously, I schedule my coffees, because it allows me to plan the rest of my week around them.
So much for the happy-go-lucky life of the freelance writer…
In nearly twelve years of fulltime freelancing I’ve discovered one main truth: when you work for yourself, you work for the most demanding taskmaster of all.
At least, I do.
Occasionally, though, all that hard work and routine pays off, as it did for me this week when The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World was on the Notables list for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year 2015 awards.
Cue: spontaneous celebration!