“Every morning between 9 and 12 I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times, I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing. If an idea does come between 9 and 12 I am there ready for it.”
“All through my career I’ve written 1 000 words a day – even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re professional. There’s no other way.”
Many writers feel that it’s essential to get into a daily routine of writing. Like any skill, writing gets easier with practice, and it helps to get into the habit – even if it’s just for half an hour a day. The more you write, the more you think like a writer, and the more the ideas flow. Leave it for too long, and you’ll find your writing muscles start to stiffen up.
Here are some tips you might find useful for setting up a writing routine:
- Time or word targets. Some writers devote a fixed number of hours to writing every day. Others set aside a certain time of day to work in – often early in the morning, or late at night. Many find it useful to set a word target. (A thousand words a day is a commonly cited figure.) You may well find this kind of structure helpful, especially if your time is limited. But there are no hard and fast rules. Other people find their writing just doesn’t gel if it’s forced, or need more flexibility in their schedule.
- Productive habits. Many people have little rituals that they perform – like sharpening all their pencils before they begin, making cups of tea, sitting in a special place … these personal habits might seem like time-wasting, but they can help you get into the right kind of meditative state for writing.
- Take breaks. Even if you don’t have a strict schedule, writing requires commitment and discipline. But you don’t have to write all day. If you try to concentrate for hours and hours at a time, you’ll get exhausted. Take short breaks to refresh yourself. Do a little every day, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your novel grows.
- Stay positive. Don’t feel disheartened if you find it difficult to write. For some, the words just flow, while for others, every sentence is a struggle. If it doesn’t come easily, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, or that your work is flawed – sometimes, quite the opposite. Writing can be slowest and hardest for those who think most deeply about the meaning and placement of the words.
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Our tutors have collectively accumulated more than 40 international writing awards, including many Qantas Awards, several Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, four Emmy Awards, the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, ATKV Awards, the Caine Prize for African Writing, the Pen/HSBC Awards, the Sir David Beatie Award, the George Foster Peabody Award and the Reed Fiction Award.
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