Stepping Up Your Game: The Daily Routine

Greetings, writer elite!

This week, I’m broadcasting live from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, aka PNWA.  Needless to say, it’s been a fantastic weekend.  Right now I’m thinking on three things:

1.  A great presentation by Katherine Sears of Booktrope, in which she discussed essential practices for marketing your work effectively.  During this session, one lady said (and I paraphrase), “but I’ve already got so much to do in managing my full-time job and life, and trying to carve out enough time in the day to get my writing done.  How am I ever supposed to fit this in too?”

To which Ms. Sears replied (and again, I summarize), “well, what did you see me doing ten minutes before this presentation started?”  (Answer: she was on her phone, getting her tweet on.)  “How many times in a day do you wait in line somewhere, or sit in your car, or wait on hold, or show up early for a meeting?  You need to make this a regular habit – five minutes here, ten minutes there – and integrate it into your daily routine.”

2.  Later, I was chatting in the cafe with a charming local writer, who’s got to get her manuscript translated into English before she can submit to the agents who’ve requested it.  From there, we started talking languages, and I said something about how I’d never been quite successful in getting fluent in Spanish, and supposed that you really needed to live somewhere and get constant 24/7 immersion to become a truly bilingual speaker.

“Oh, no,” she said (and with the voice of authority – I believe she learned four languages just while growing up!)  “You don’t need to go anywhere – you need only to practice consistently.  If you want to understand Spanish, watch thirty minutes of Spanish television every day.  If you want to read it, make sure that every day you read a chapter of a book, a newspaper article, something online.  It must be something you do daily, not once on the weekends.”

3.  While at PNWA, I fell in with a sort of aggressively hilarious posse of writers, who one night invited me to play a game called Cards Against Humanity.   Each of the cards has a fill-in-the-blank statement, and you have to decide how to complete the phrase.  (It’s terribly crass – I heartily recommend it.)  Anyway, one of the cards in the deck looks like this:

1. _______  2. ________ 3. Profit!
Historical re-enactment

So here at the end of the conference, I’m just thinking: as writers, we are already intimately familiar with the “do some every day, or as often as you can” brand of delayed gratification.  Often we find ourselves frantically scraping together bits and pieces of the day to melt them down into enough uninterrupted time to get real writing done.  So being told that we have to add yet more stuff to the to-do list can be both intimidating and frustrating.   And yet those little blanks on the path to “profit!” demand to be filled!

With that in mind, I’d like to ask: what do you want to add / have you added to your daily regimen?  For those of you who have already been successful on this front, what would you recommend for those of us who are still feeling a bit overwhelmed?

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