Write Now: Routine Helps Get Words On A Page

Like athletes, some writers may have a “pregrame” warmup or routine before actually writing.

Do you have a writing routine? Are there things you do before committing words to the page? Do you have to browse books, magazines, and the Internet to convince yourself it is time to write?

I sort of have a routine, but it’s not the same all of the time.

In the past I tried writing in the cafe inside a Barnes and Noble Book Store. My “pregame” consisted of browsing for new books, old books, popular authors, and popular subjects. Finally I found a table in the cafe, placed my writing stuff (iPad and keyboard) on the table, walked to the counter and ordered a cold coffee slushy drink with caramel drizzled over whip cream. I would bring the frozen concoction back to my table, turn on my iPad, connect my keyboard, put in the password, so I could use the Internet in case I needed clarification. It worked for a time. I wrote half of my book “The Followers: Mid Freeze” there. The people weren’t a distraction, and I honed in on what I wanted to write, and was very productive. I ended up writing for about two hours. I did this about five different times spread out over a three-week period. It may have been the atmosphere that had pushed me to get words on the page.

The routine may be part of prewriting. You remember prewriting. It’s the first step in the writing process — prewriting or brainstorming, rough draft, revision, editing, and publishing.

My routine usually is not part of my prewriting. Yes, I think about words and what I am going to write, but I don’t think of how I want to use them. It’s more like I am thinking about ideas.

I will try to answer two questions: What do I want to say? How do I want to say it?

Answering these questions will hold up for poetry, fiction and scholarly writing. These two questions provide a road map. And you can place the questions in your prewriting stage if you want. Sometimes, I may answer the questions in my prewriting.

I like to let ideas stay with me for a while before getting them on the page. And when I get to that point, I may type words associated with my ideas to begin my prewriting.

My routine begins with liquid. Depending on the season, I will get either a glass of water, a cup of coffee, a cup of tea or cold coffee-flavored drink before a I sit down to write. I will place it to my right, near the keyboard. I am not a big fan of eating while writing because it seems the focus may be more on the food then one’s words. I will sit down at the computer, get comfortable, and maybe surf the Internet to see what is there. I get out all of my non-writing ideas by surfing the web. I may read a newspaper online or go to YouTube to see what has been posted. I may read Twitter. I usually spend 15-25 minutes musing about.

And then it’s time.

I know what it is I need to communicate.

I am not using a web browser anymore because except for what I will write about, my other ideas have seeped out and the one, the most important idea, stays with me.

I begin typing.

This is the fun part because my ideas take shape. One word starts one sentence, and words become two sentences, and so on, until I decide to create a new paragraph.

Then one paragraph becomes two, then five, and then I have one page written.

When I commit words to a page, I am not counting words or sentences or paragraphs. There is no time. Early in my career, I counted, but I have found out that counting wastes time, and it becomes a distraction. I was not focused on my idea as much as I was focused on word count. That was a hard habit to break. But once I did, my words flowed differently on a page. I was able to say what I want to say.

When I have written a page, I may pause and take a drink, and stare, but not focus on anything. I put down the glass or cup and begin the process again.

Whatever “pregame” warmup you have is fine because it gets you to write what you need to write. The fact that my “pregame” may change from time to time is my “pregame” warmup. Allowing myself the flexibility is what gets me to write.

It’s that easy.

It’s that hard.