Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Matter of Habit

I chuckled to myself this morning as I sat down to write this blog post because I had just gone through each of the steps that I was going to discuss.  I couldn’t help it.  I am truly a creature of habit.  Of course, some will call them routines, rituals, or merely the boring traits of a middle-aged man stuck in his ways.  That last one is partly true.  I am middle-aged, but I’m not exactly stuck in my ways.  It’s more as if I’m comfortable.  Okay, very comfortable, but I’m not stuck.  Stuck is what I am at night on the couch after two bowls of butter pecan ice cream and it’s time for bed.  This is the real reason for those fat sofa pillows the girls keep buying to decorate the house with.  It’s so I can simply roll over and go to sleep without moving.

No, I am very much a creature of habit, a man who enjoys routines.  My mornings begin the same every day.  I am rudely awakened by the girls telling me it’s time to take them to work.  I then pound around on my headboard for my glasses and cell phone before stumbling into the privy to hide for another fifteen minutes.  Besides doing the necessaries, I use my phone to check all the social media sites for notifications, check the blog, and see how well Circle of Justice is doing on Smashwords.  By now the girls are complaining that they’re going to be late, so I force myself up and out and into clothes.  I’m handed my coffee mug with the eye-opening steam and slide behind the steering wheel hoping to wake up before someone tries to obnoxiously cut me off.  It’s the same routine every morning, seven days a week with time off for Christmas.

The routines don’t end there.  Once I’m done with the taxi service, I can be found with my coffee and a cigar nestled on our back porch playing on the laptop and writing in one of my many notebooks.  Ever since I was active in the church, numbers have made me feel good, so the first order of business is to examine my stats from the previous day.  One day soon those figures will represent dollars and the girls are going to want to know how many pairs of shoes they can purchase that week.  I better have an answer for them.

The numbers serve several purposes.  They tell me if I’m doing something right or wrong in my marketing strategy.  They also give me encouragement and motivation.  What author doesn’t like to see that download number get bigger and bigger?

What do my morning rituals have to do with writing, which is after all this week’s theme on The Mess?  Perhaps nothing to you, but to me it has everything to do with it.  As my day is built around routine, so is my writing, and I have discovered that I produce more by following certain rituals.  I use certain pens, I prefer certain notebooks, and I wear a black fedora.  Some may call it superstitious, but I call it setting a mood.

Routines help me get into a certain frame of mind that allows the words and ideas to flow easier.  They build structure into my day that keeps me from wasting valuable time and just spinning my wheels.  That also keeps me from wasting ink.

Every writer has a routine that works for them.  Some are more in-depth than others, but we all have them.  Some start their day with writing exercises to get the juices flowing.  Others stop writing before they’re typed out, so as to pick right back up the next day with the excitement still in the air.  Some outline a little, while others outline a lot, and still others don’t outline at all wanting to be surprised at the end.

I have different routines for different types of writing.  As I’m still fairly new at it in my eyes, these steps are evolving slightly.  However, the basic routine is there.

With my creative nonfiction or freelance articles it starts with notes on a piece of paper.  From there a bullet gets turned into a couple of paragraphs fleshed out on index cards until I have exhausted the material or my notes.  I then shuffle the cards around into a logical sequence and write the manuscript out in one of my handy dandy notebooks.  I do this because I don’t always sit on my back porch or in my office when I write and a notebook is lighter than the laptop to lug around.  Once the manuscript is written out, I’ll edit it and then type it up, only to edit it some more.  From there it gets passed to my three special editors for their critique and opinions.  One more edit from there and I can send it out or post it, depending on what it was intended for in the first place.

Fiction has quite a bit more to it for me depending on the size of the story.  Short stories I usually just get an idea and start writing, sometimes working on characters a bit, but most often not.  There isn’t much to keep track of so I don’t get that lost in the narrative.  With novellas or novels, however, the amount of information is much greater and calls for a different regiment.  While it may start with a storyline, it requires background, history, religions, and special facts of history for that particular novel and so on.  I purchase small journals where I begin to stuff all of my research and character sketches, some of which will go into the story while the rest is for my eyes only.  Sometimes I’ll wait to start the story until as much information as possible is gathered; sometimes I won’t.  It depends on how bad the story is interfering with all of my other thoughts such as why I walked into the living room or where I last set my cup of coffee.

My routines also include music playlists, lighting and candy in my candy dish.  Not everyone has these routines and not everyone needs them.  Still, they make writing an easier process for me allowing for the most creative productivity for my allotted time.  Routines add structure and order to my day.  What routines help you in achieving your dreams?
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  1. That is so funny. I wear a straw fedora, smoke cheap cigarettes and listen to miles davis. I also write shirtless and have a tendency to drink too much...

    1. Well, if I am writing in the evening, my coffee is exchanged for