A recent car trip severely disrupted my writing routine. At the same time, I read a passage in a writing book that made me question the advantages of a strict writing routine. Routines can help us write when the going is difficult but they can also handicap our productivity when we become dependent on them.
For instance, I write best in the morning, at my desk, in quiet. Maybe you are an evening writer who needs to be surrounded by people at the kitchen table. The thoughts flow most easily then. The point is, I reached a point of dependence where I felt that if I didn’t have any one of these conditions, I could not produce. Because I identified these three crucial elements, I was able to begin bending them in order to lessen my dependence on them.
I began writing twice a week in a local deli that encourages people to work from their restaurant. The deli is quiet in the morning and gradually fills for lunch – which gives me a chance to adjust to the increased noise and business. On rough days, I listen to music to drown out the sounds of the other patrons.
You can do the same with your routine. Write at a different time, different location, noise level, whatever is opposite from what you feel is crucial for your writing process. I am not recommending that you tackle all elements at once – that might completely block you. Be moderate or daring, but test yourself to be sure that you are not a slave to your own routine.
The benefits of stretching your routine are tremendous. I can now write in more places, with different noise levels. (I already wrote at times other than mornings). You will also become able to write under conditions that previously stymied your productivity. The practice paid off during my car trip where I did not have my desk, open mornings, or quiet. Thanks to stretching my routine and using a combination of discipline and adaptation, I was able to continue writing under even these extreme circumstances.