We writers often find ourselves in the same, unstable, boat.
Many love writing, feel called by the poetic use of words, but not everyone becomes a writer.
Precisely because it is not enough to want to. Often our lives distract us from what we want to do, and despite the will, we still do not produce anything.
The hard truth that has to be accepted is that you will not create a best-seller by sitting on the couch watching Netflix.
Do you want to write the book that has been nagging at you for months?
Well, you have no choice but to sit down at your computer, or in front of lots of paper, and write.
The writers we all know are not evil masterminds or superheroes but simply ordinary people who worked for what they wanted.
And if they can we can, if we work hard enough.
However, I know that writing a book is not that easy. I too find myself with a thousand ideas but when the time to put them down on paper comes I get stuck and get distracted by other things.
If you are like that too, this is the perfect article for you. The famous writers who have made it are in fact also good-hearted and have spread a lot of advice for those who want to pursue the same literary career.
If every day you see the hours passing before your eyes without you being able to make them productive, this will help you.
Here I will reveal the daily writing routines that have brought the great storytellers to where they are now.
This successful writer has a very clear idea of what works for him. According to him, you have to work hard and stick to your daily routine, without ifs and buts.
“You can write a book or two easily, but if you want to keep on writing for 10 years, for 20 years, you have to be practical, you have to be strong, physically.”
In his life, equal importance is given to both mind and body. At the beginning of his career he had made the mistake of ignoring his precious health and only thinking about work.
Therefore he had stopped leaving the house, spent all the hours of the day sitting at his desk, with just the company of far too many cigarettes.
When he realised that if he continued like this he would not live long, he started to think about both his physical and mental health. In fact, if one of the two misfires., the other will also be deeply affected.
But now let us see what a typical day of a productive writer looks like.
“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation.
The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
After finishing writing the first draft, Murakami spends twice as many months revising it, following the advice of his beloved wife.
“I pass the draft to Yoko at the third or fourth revision and she reads it and she tells me her opinion,” he said. “And we discuss it for a couple of days. Then I start to rewrite again. When I have rewritten it, I pass it to her again and she tells me her opinion again. This happens three or four times.”
This beloved writer does not prioritise the number of pages written in a day, for him the essential thing is to write. Every day, without exception. In fact, he thinks that quitting is very dangerous because it is much more difficult to start again than to continue out of habit.
“I write every day when I’m writing, some Saturdays and Sundays, a few hours each day. I usually start working around 9:30 and I work until 6. I’m lucky to get what I consider four clean pages. They’re clean until the next day, the next morning.
The time flies by. I can’t believe it. When I look at the clock and it’s 3 o’clock and I think, “Good, I’ve got three more hours.” And then I think, “I must have the best job in the world.” I don’t look at this as work. I don’t look at it as any kind of test, any kind of proof of what I can do. I have a good time.“
Even Hemingway advises not to stop the daily flow of words. His best daily routine is not one of the strictest.
He gets up early in the morning and, as the sun rises, goes to his desk to work. He loves those quiet moments when no one could disturb him and his thoughts have plenty of time to clear up.
“You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love.
Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.”
Again, it doesn’t matter how many hours are spent or how many pages are written, as long as each day leaves enough energy and creativity to continue the next day. So as to stop writer’s block forever.
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next,” “If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.”
The author we are talking about now is much stricter about the division of tasks by time. In fact he gives himself timetables but goes no further, he does not always get up at the same time in the morning but the hours he works always remain the same.
For him it is simply unthinkable to force someone, even himself, to work for eight hours a day.
“I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours. “
But now let us see through his words what a typical writer’s day is like.
“I awake at 5:30, work until 8:00, eat breakfast at home, work until 10:00, walk a few blocks into town, do errands, go to the nearby municipal swimming pool, which I have all to myself, and swim for half an hour, return home at 11:45, read the mail, eat lunch at noon. In the afternoon I do schoolwork, either teach or prepare.”
Here, too, you see that the writer moves around a lot during the day and does not forget to do some sport to counteract sedentary work.
“When I get home from school at about 5:30, I numb my twanging intellect with several belts of Scotch and water ($5.00/fifth at the State Liquor store, the only liquor store in town.
There are loads of bars, though.), cook supper, read and listen to jazz (lots of good music on the radio here), slip off to sleep at ten. I do pushups and sit-ups all the time, and feel as though I am getting lean and sinewy, but maybe not.”
Macomber, and as you have seen, many writers, get up as soon as the rooster rises.
She dedicates the beginning of each of her days to gratitude. She prays and gives her gratitude for what she has so that she always remembers how precious life is.
As soon as she is finished, she also dedicates herself to physical health.
“After my reflection, I dive straight for the pool. Most mornings I swim a half mile before I head into the office. Once there, it is my joy to open all of my reader mail.”
Indeed, the writer loves to read the opinions and news of her fans and makes sure she always leaves time for this activity.
“Then I look at my daily checklist. I’m great at making lists and each month I set a series of goals for myself. They usually involve my work, I commit to writing a certain number of pages each day and will not leave the office until that goal has been met.”
Macomber devotes her entire morning to writing but once she feels she is finished, she puts everything aside and devotes herself to daily life with her family.
“Before bed, I take a moment to relax with my husband. We cozy up on the couch, me with my knitting and him with his feet up.”
“To me, knitting feels like an extension of our thoughts and our blessings. It allows me to decompress while processing the day’s details, I weave the moments of my day together, stitching memories forever into my mind.”
If you have finished writing your book, congratulations. It’s time to edit!!! How exciting!
Donna Tart does not follow basic things, such as time. But for her and her writing, only inspiration matters. And she has great advice to give.
“I write for three hours in the morning. If it isn’t going well, I’ll stop and do something else but if it’s going well I’ll work till I’m tired.”
She only devotes herself to writing her books on days when she has nothing else to do. In fact, she finds it very difficult to concentrate when she knows she has to leave the house to run errands.
The writer of the very famous book ‘The Secret History‘ recommends writing in public. In fact, she has written many of her books in the New York public library.
“If you need inspiration just look up and use the thousands of examples that pass you by. A bit like an artist drawing sketches of passers-by.”
At the end of his days, to relax and leave his mind trained for the next day, he reads.
But not just any book.
She chose to read a special book at the end of the day, a book who feels close to the one she’s writing.
Don’t know what to read right now? The best list of books you NEED to read in 2023
The best daily routine for this writer is very much related to imagination.
“I wrote for two or three hours in the morning, then went to a gym to work out,” he said. “I’d have lunch alone at a counter, go back to the apartment and work some more. Sometimes I’d lie down and just think about the book all afternoon — daydream if you will. In the evenings I’d often go out to dinner with friends.”
For him, the important thing is how the story will continue, not in how many pages it will do so.
“It’s not a matter of time. I set a realistic objective: how can I inch along to the next paragraph? Inching is what it is. It’s not: how can I handle the next chapter? How can I get to the next stage in a way that I like? I think about that as I walk the dog or walk the twenty minutes from my apartment to the studio where I work.”
Sarah J. Maas
This writer’s routine is especially suitable for those who have a family to take care of. In fact, it is quite loose and although the work is done and finished, there is no hurry.
“It’s pretty simple: wake up, play with my son for a little bit around breakfast, then after a few cups of tea, head into my office to write for most of the day. I take a break midday to exercise for an hour, then have a quick lunch, then keep writing until my son’s dinner and/or bath time. After that, I’m done for the day, and I can unwind.”
She dedicates the end of her days to herself and relaxes by watching some TV series with her husband.
Neil Gaiman does not believe in the existence of writer’s block. So for him you are either writing your book or you are thinking about something else. He gives himself strict but workable rules to avoid distraction.
“I’m allowed to sit at my desk, I’m allowed to stare out at the world, I’m allowed to do anything I like, as long as it isn’t anything,” he explained.
“Not allowed to do a crossword, not allowed to read a book, not allowed to phone a friend, not allowed to make a clay model of something. All I’m allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write.”
The time he dedicates to writing is sacred and during those hours his only priority is to write.
So in the moments when his brain rebels, he does not give himself the privilege of being distracted by the phone, the computer or going out. He either writes or nothing.
And after so much nothing, the brain always chooses the other option.
“If I’m writing a novel, I’ll probably get up in the morning, do email, perhaps blog, deal with emergencies, and then be off novel-writing around 1.00pm and stop around 6.00pm. And I’ll be writing in longhand, a safe distance from my computer.“
Neil Gaiman has an efficient but very particular daily routine. In fact, he hates wasting time writing down words and sentences that he will later delete because they will not fit into the finished book.
To avoid unnecessary writing, he has found a method that, at least for him, works well.
“If Gaiman is working on his first draft, he’ll start off with writing it in a fountain pen — he started this habit while he was working on his 1999 fantasy novel, Stardust, because he wanted to capture the feeling of the 1920s.”
“A good day is defined by anything more than 1,500 words of comfortable, easy writing that I figure I’m probably going to use most of in the end.”
This famous writer gives us valuable advice in describing his routine.
“I wake up. I eat breakfast. I walk about three and a half miles. I come back, I go out to my little office, where I’ve got a manuscript, and the last page that I was happy with is on top. I read that, and it’s like getting on a taxiway.
I’m able to go through and revise it and put myself – click – back into that world, whatever it is. I don’t spend the day writing. I’ll maybe write a fresh copy for two hours, and then I’ll go back and revise some of it and print what I like and then turn it off.”
As you can see, this ingenious method is very simple but effective.
The author when starting to write finds it difficult to get back into the world he is talking about, there is that moment of hesitation when you need a ‘warm-up’.
To speed up the process, reading the last page, that you are particularly happy with, is a great idea. It will give you a feeling of optimism and the urge to start writing again, plus your mind will get into the right mindset through reading.
In short, you have no excuse not to try, regardless of your routine.
Charles Dickens, like many other writers in this article, did not live in our century and therefore did not have our comforts. That is why his method of writing was quite different, but his routine, on the other hand, remains very relevant.
“As such, Dickens treated writing much like any day job. He woke up at 7am, had breakfast at 8am, and sat down to work in his study by 9am. He would work without pause until 2pm, when he would stop for lunch and embark on a daily three hour walk around London.”
If you have ever read one of his works, you know how important London is. This deep knowledge of the city was precisely due to his long walks. Every day he visited something different until he knew every street and dark corner around him.
“Following his walk, Dickens would return home for dinner at 6pm, spend an evening relaxing with his family and friends, and be in bed by midnight. “
Are you starting to write now? Or does your beginning not convince you?
Virginia Woolf and her writing were one and the same. Writing was just as much a part of her life as breathing was, but she did not only deal with literary works.
“She had a structured day throughout, first working on her fiction between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., and then breaking for lunch. Woolf’s afternoons were dedicated to letter writing and journaling, and in the evenings she would either entertain (if she had guests) or read until she went to sleep.”
She was fortunately in a very good financial situation and this allowed her to avoid all the enormous responsibilities that every woman had from the moment of birth. Thus she was able to write freely throughout her life and often writing became her only source of life.
Jane Austen tried to write every single day, to produce something saleable, to support both her and her family. Not much is known of her routine, but something has remained.
“She rose early, getting up to practice the piano without disturbing her mother, her sister and her best friend, Martha Lloyd, who lived with them. We can suppose that Jane also wanted time to herself before the day’s round of visits from friends, relatives and neighbours began.”
“She wrote using a quill pen that she dipped in inkwell, initially on small slips of paper, which fitted easily into her writing box.”
After years it has been concluded that Austen devoted the whole morning until lunchtime to writing, after which she would put down her pen and devote herself to something else.
Often the afternoon was devoted to guests and the rest of the day to looking after her family.
A small curiosity
“The ink used by Jane was made from iron gall, which was tannin mixed with iron sulphate, some gum arabic and a little water. As well as being indelible, it was cheap and readily available. When exposed to the air the ink would change from a pale gray to a rich blue-black, then gradually turn brown as the iron oxidized.”
I have shown you the writing routines of many writers from which I hope you will take inspiration to create your own.
Some are very simple others more specific, this is because every writer is different and therefore needs different motivations.
So do all of you dear readers, remember that.
We do however find some common points
- Choose a place, or part of the house, that you will dedicate only to writing
- Exercise, without health you won’t write for long
- Repeat the routine every day, without exception
- Create a routine you enjoy
- Prefer quality to quantity
- Don’t give your brain a chance to get distracted, it’s write or do nothing
We saw the daily routines of successful writers from past and present. Each of them has written masterpieces and other little-known books.
This teaches us one important thing, not everything we do will be a success but that does not make us any less successful.
Every time you worked hard, you won.
Every time you have tried, you have won.
If you are interested in a writing career, you will not write just one book in your life. But many. You could become the new Oscar Wilde but remember that he too wrote something that does not get much attention.
Most probably your masterpiece will not be the first book (it may be but it is not likely) but without the first one all the others will never exist either.
To motivate you in writing your story, I have added some small tips below, words from writers that bring us back to reality when doubts arise. Enjoy them.
“What Dickens used, then, was not a detailed plan for every aspect of his stories but rather a rough outline of key events, characters, and plot points. This was important, as it allowed him to ensure that plot progression was planned at large, whilst also permitting alterations as feedback was received from his audience. These Plan Sheets were further supplemented by pages of working notes in which Dickens outlined his larger structure, developed salient character details, and took note of any symbolism that he particularly wished to incorporate.”
“WRITE IT BADLY. Write it badly, write it badly, write it badly, write it badly. Stop what you’re doing, open Word document, put a pencil on some paper, just get the idea out of your head. Let it be good later. Write it down now. Otherwise it will die in there.”
– Overcoming writer’s block, Brandon Sanderson
“I never give advice to writers. They don’t need someone to tell them to write something everyday. The one thing I will say is: have fun with it. Don’t listen to all these authors who tell you that writing is such hard work, that you have to lock your kids in the garage in order to start writing. If you go into it thinking that, it’s going to be a chore for you. If you instead go “hey! Look at me writing. I’m creating something! I’m having a good time” that’s the way to go. Writing is a lot easier when you have that attitude”
– RL Stine
You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
– F. SCOTT FITZGERALD