As the sun sets on the school holidays and I begin to plan a bumper week of work next week to catch up, I’m thinking about writing routines.
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!
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
I’ve always had a routine and the motivator is – money! If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Of course, getting other people to understand that is hard. And it doesn’t always work when you have kids – sometimes routines go out the window then! But routines are key for me as well.
I hear you Bronnie!
It’s taken me a year and a half just to stick to a real blog routine! Hahaha.
Having just dropped to three days a week, I’ve just realised that if I don’t plan those two days well then I will not be very productive and will then beat myself up…but I’m procrastinating because I quite simply don’t know where to start…how much of the day should I use for chores, how much for creativity, and what about just simply sitting in the hammock? I kind of need someone to boss me into a routine and then I’ll keep it like a pro!
Firstly, congratulations on the notables list inclusion – how awesome! I’m big on routines, otherwise I faff about and end up getting nothing done. Routines and writing lists – because I’m a sucker for a nice notepad and like the feeling of crossing off things to-do 🙂
I was just saying this to a friend tonight at book club who also runs her own business – all this flexibility can mean our work bleeds into every day and somehow, our part time job is suddenly a job we do 7 days a week. I really need a schedule at home and to make the most of the 8 hours my 3 year old has kinder/occasional care. I’d love to read about your routine or those of other freelance writers. I have two kids at school, one at home so I have another 18 months before all three are at school and my drop offs and pick ups are streamlined!
I have half-written out a ‘typical day in the life’ post to show the routine I have so I can actually get some work done at home. Without a routine, I am toast. Or eating toast. x
Congratulations on making the notables list! That’s awesome! I’m enjoying the flexibility of my life at the moment but realise I need to embrace the old routine again to get myself moving towards some goals. Love this quote by the way ” when you work for yourself, you work for the most demanding taskmaster of all.” Cheers 🙂
Love a routine around here. Animals need feeding, and kids are happier when they can (mostly predict) what is going to happen. It is very easy to sleep in and pfaff about and find half the day wasted without them. I also like the to do list written the night before. I find I’m more productive if I know everything that needs to be done in advance.
I have zero routine. But I know what you mean. I wonder if you are a plotter or pantser?
I am a pantser. Sometimes I try to be a plotter, but it rarely goes well.
I’m not a morning person and my brain doesn’t get going until my third coffee at 11am, so I prefer to write in the afternoon – and even at night. Friends don’t understand and feel for me when I say I have to work some evenings and can’t join them for dinner or a movie. “Ah”, I say “when you’re working in the mornings, I’m at the beach or doing yoga or having a long walk”. It’s all about prioritising, no?
It’s ALL about prioritising. I think your routine sounds splendid!
I have a nerdy little schedule that I implemented recently and I love it. Of course sticking to it is the key to success, which I do most days. But I totally agree with you, the life of a freelance writer isn’t as ‘free’ as it sounds. But I do love it!
Sticking to anything is the key to success! Good luck with your nerdy schedule.
So true! With kids and two different jobs I struggle with maintaining writing routines also… despite never being a morning person I’ve found early mornings can be a great time to write, but keeping that routine can be so difficult! Just have to work hard at it every day…
Wow – you’re doing so well if you’re managing to write at ALL with all that going on. Good luck!
Oh, I soooooo understand the need for routine! And yes, my biggest challenge is people not understanding that I can’t just drop everything to go for a coffee. I love to be social and adore catching up with my friends, but my kids are young and so the only time I get to write is during the day while they’re at school or late at night after they’re in bed. So taking a morning or afternoon off means I have to make up the time elsewhere, and I don’t write well at 2 am! I do think this is a common thing for lots of people who work from home. I love my routine and I have to stick by it to meet deadlines and just like you, the hardest task master in my life is me!
I hear you!
I’m struggling a fair bit now that my baby is older. When she was younger she had a set routine. I have a day job and I work four days per week, so she doesn’t have a proper schedule because whoever is watching her just does whatever. I might have to take a few days off and train her to sleep at a set time during the day, because that is the only way I will ever get the time I want to do my work, on my very rare days off. Thanks for the advice! And congrats again on making the notables 🙂
It’s definitely not easy when you don’t have a straight run at it – but well worth the effort! Good luck!