The Routine of No Routine

Remember when you were a kid, when all you had was time? Remember those long, deliciously boring days of summer when the question of how to fill said time was the only one you had to answer?

For me, that answer was usually a book, whether read in a bathtub, under a tree, up a tree, or next to the community pool.

These days, I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like, but I still make time, usually at the end of the day. As Stephen King has famously said, if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and how to carve out moments to do things that are important to me, like writing. I think we can all lose sight of those things as we age, as responsibilities mount, and, particularly for women, as we might put the needs of our spouse or kids before our own. It’s easy to forget about taking time to do things we enjoy, the things that make life worth living.

Finding the time to write is crucial for me. I often see other writers asked in interviews or as guest bloggers, “what is your writing routine?”

I read about these authors and their “routines” with a mix envy and disbelief. An actual writing schedule! The luxury of it.

Maybe their kids are older. Maybe they don’t have kids. Maybe writing is their full-time gig.

Since nobody is lining up to interview me at present, I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you now: I have no writing routine.

My writing happens totally catch-as-catch-can. I steal moments when I am able, where I am able. Sometimes it’s early in the morning, sometimes it’s after the bambino goes to sleep at night while the Italian makes dinner, sometimes it’s quick hour on the weekend during naptime.

[We both love to cook, but the Italian tends to do more of it due to our schedules. He is an excellent cook. I chose wisely.]

I am, in fact, writing this right now at a local Mediterranean café during my lunch hour.

I could attempt to instill some kind of routine onto this madness, I suppose. There are some writers who, like me, have full-time jobs and family responsibilities, and who find it in themselves to wake up at 5am every day and write a certain amount of words. I am in awe of these folks.

This would just never work ‘round these parts. What if the bambino had a bad night and I barely slept? What if I had an early meeting? Apply this same rationale to any other potential set-writing times. Even my lunch hour, in which I do accomplish an uncanny amount of writing, is not sacred. Sometimes I have a lunch meeting. Sometimes I prioritize a yoga class, or a manicure, during that precious time.

And yet the words pile up, and the writing gets done. For me, the key is consistency more than anything. If I stray away from a WIP for too long I lose the feel of it, and it can take a few days to get my head back in the game, so to speak. So even if it’s just an hour here, and an hour there, and then a delightful swath of several hours – say the Italian takes the bambino to the grocery store on a Saturday – as long as I check in daily, or even every other day, I see progress, and feel encouraged and enthusiastic, and can’t wait to get back to my characters and the world I’ve created.

I hope you all carve out time for something you enjoy this weekend, friends. For me, I’ll be chillin’ with the bambino solo, as the Italian is having yet another boys weekend (the second one this summer! No worries, my turn is coming up soon). We’ll do plenty of other things that make life worth living: go for some runs, hit the farmer’s market, play in the pool, and make a peach cobbler.

Much as we’ll miss the Italian, I cherish alone time with my little guy, who will only be little for a short while. I know I’ll deeply enjoy each and every one of those activities.

And when he’s asleep, I’ll be writing.

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