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So, I tried a Writer’s Writing Routine and This is What Happened

American writer and lecturer, Dale Carnegie once said, “To be interesting, be interested.”

 If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that storytelling is something we all do. It makes us human. It is how we try to find a way to understand the world surrounding us, to explore and exaggerate, to see, to find, and to create. 

 But there is a monumental difference between being a storyteller and being a writer. To be a writer, you have to be disciplined, you have to form habits of reading and writing like never before. You have to create a routine that allows you to use your full potential to pull out the worlds bubbling beneath your skin. But what happens if you can’t do this? Recently, I’ve been feeling stuck. Writing in general is no issue for me, I can easily sit down and put thoughts into words, however, the feeling of being stuck comes when I want to write for myself. Often, this has led to moments of indifference, followed by critical thinking oozing with criticism – “a writer that cannot … write?” and then, naturally, followed by a random spout of inspiration that’s gone before I’m able to grab a pen. 

 When I read Dale Carnegie’s words, “To be interesting, be interested” it struck a nerve – to be a writer, I had to write. To write, I needed content. To have content, I needed a routine. To find a routine, I needed to be interested in the writers before me and the lessons they taught. 

 So, I researched the importance of a Writing Routine or Schedule. According to an article on Able, “consistent writing” is most likely one of the best tools that a person can have to achieve their writing goals and be a productive writer overall. The article also goes on to say that the following are proven benefits of having a writing routine:

1.| Enhanced Productivity – it has been proven that writing regularly, for short periods, increases one’s levels of productivity.

2.| Habit Formation – I’ve heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit – therefore, creating a habit of writing is in direct correlation with how often it is practiced. 

3.| Stress Reduction – According to the article – research has shown that simply 45 minutes of creativity a day can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress!

4.| Healing 

5.| A profound gratitude – I think that this can range from the act of writing itself to the topics written about. 

 Of course, I needed to try a writing routine. But I also wanted to spice it up. 

I decided to try Ursula K Le Guin’s writing routine. 

Ursula Le Guin was an American author who was best known for her works of strange and speculative fiction – quite commonly set in the realm of sci-fi. I first encountered her work when I was at University – The Left Hand of Darkness, which simultaneously awed and confused me in the best way. But more than that, she is the writer behind some of the most breathtaking and powerful quotes in literature.

My favorites are:

 “A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.” – The Left Hand of Darkness

 “All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t our lives get made up for us by other people.” – The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination.

 “To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.” - The Left Hand of Darkness

 “We read books to find out who we are.” – The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

 Le Guin’s writing routine is popular, and numerous Blog Posts and YouTube Videos are floating around the internet of people who have tried this method – the results have varied in whether it has worked for them or not. She has described her daily schedule like this:

05:30 a.m. | Wake up and lie there and think.

06:15 a.m. | Get up and eat breakfast (lots).

07:15 a.m. | Get to work writing, writing, writing.

Noon | Lunch 

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. | Reading, music. 

3:00 – 5:00 p.m. | Correspondence, maybe house cleaning.

5:00 – 8:00 p.m. | Make dinner and eat it.

After 8:00 p.m. | I tend to be very stupid and we won’t talk about this. 

 Taking into consideration that Le Guin was a mother of three, the time allocations made sense, to me, however, they seemed intimidating and a complete change from what I was used to. Nevertheless, I thought that I’d try her daily routine for 7 days.  

This is what happened:

I didn’t think that the transition would be so difficult, I was usually an early riser, except there is a difference between naturally waking up and setting an alarm. Lying in bed for 45 minutes and contemplating life felt futile, what could I discover in those 45 minutes that I didn’t know already? Breakfast also felt too early, but I was determined to commit. Easing into writing for the day also felt strange. Suddenly, there was the command to write, there was nothing else to do but to commit to the act of something that I defined myself upon. I wrote everything and nothing, walking the fine line between brilliance (with Faulkner on my mind) and madness.

 The week slowly began to take shape, there was a sense of sacredness to what I was doing – I was trying to put myself into the shadow of a literary giant, and while on one hand, I felt small, on the other, I felt that there was meaning waiting for me to uncover. I spent hours world-building, creating characters that I may never use or get to know further. When I didn’t have it in me to write anymore, I read. I underlined and highlighted favorite passages and quotes that stopped time. I listened to interviews by Le Guin. I re-read old writing. I edited existing pieces of work. I made playlists for characters, defining their moods and personalities. I learned the different names for shades of ‘dark red’. I made meal after meal, trying to be different each day. I escaped into the ease of the ‘after 8:00 p.m.’ allowing myself to be spontaneous, to go out and do things that I could use as inspiration for writing the next day. 

I did this for 7 full days.

 It's been a few days since I resumed life as normal, stepping out of Le Guin’s routine and trying to figure out a routine that works for me. I still regard the experiment as something unique and sacred, but also inspiring. Moreover, the experience reminded me that I am uniquely gifted with my ability to write and that while I can be a storyteller, I am a writer. Sometimes, as artists, we need to be reminded of our craft, to be reminded that the alchemy of our talent lies in our ability to shape it into something beautiful. To mold and transform, to feel and to share. Even now, since her passing in 2018, Le Guin continues to be an inspiration to all those who read her material, and even to us, the people who want to try her infamous daily routine, making it a part of our journey. 

If you’re an artist of any sort, I invite you to research your idols, look at their routines, step into their shadows and see if what worked for them, can work for you.

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