If you think I’m writing these blog posts in part so I can spend my mornings browsing aesthetically pleasing photos of coffee and desks and people writing in dramatic lighting, you’d be 100% right.
Also, it’s January, so I’m on that Self Development Kick that we all get when advertisers are hammering into our minds how we can be better, and our new years’ resolutions haven’t faded from our minds for the next 11 months.
Okay, I say that but I love setting and achieving my new years’ resolutions. Maybe it’s my obsessive compulsion tendencies and love for color coding and aggressive goal-setting, but I just adore making elaborate goal tracking whiteboards and sharing my insane notecarding process on my Instagram.
What Makes a Successful Weekly Writing Routine
When I was thinking about my most successful years, I realized that it comes down to how much control I have over my weekly schedule. If I have more flexible hours, I’m able to design my writing routine around creatively inspiring activities that feed into what I’m working on. If I’m struggling with a boatload of freelance projects, I find myself feeling creatively exhausted and my writing suffers.
The best weekly writing routines are holistic and well-rounded: an ideal schedule includes activities that are creative, kinetic, and reflective, and support your writing process so that you can hit the page feeling energized and inspired.
So, using my own trial-and-error, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build your perfect weekly writing routine:
Step 1: Pick Your Creative Activities
When you want to feel inspired what do you do? What kinds of activities make you want to sit down and write? What made you want to create in the first place?
Whether it’s watching movies, going on an adventure, traveling, seeing art at a museum, or reading, find what inspires you and make sure you’re doing a mix of creative activities every week.
This is different for everyone. If you’re a comedy writer, performing stand-up or going to comedy shows might be perfect. If you’re a drama writer, going to plays or immersive theater events might be right up your alley.
I also enjoy meeting new people. Whether that’s on first dates, at bars or salsa nights or networking events — meeting interesting people and hearing about their life stories is one of my favorite things to do. As an introvert, I can’t do this too often because I need to be alone to refuel, but it’s an important part of my week regardless.
Finding balance is important: you want enough creative activities to inspire you and get you thinking, but also binge-watching FRIENDS for the millionth time will keep you from your writing or more high-value creative activities. Procrastination is healthy — but only in small doses!
I like to divide up my creative activities by category, and get in a little of each one every week. Here’s my list of categories, feel free to find your own activities for each:
- Social. Networking events or drinks with fellow creatives, hanging out with friends, hosting dinner parties or murder mystery parties — I try and get out and be social pretty often while still carving out alone time.
- Cultural. I love going to museums, attending immersive theater events (and eventually want to produce my own!), and seeing new places. I want to travel more this year as my schedule allows, and am going to DC and NYC next month to get #cultured. (AKA: spending every minute in DC at the Spy Museum.) I’m also learning guitar and Spanish, and try and practice each every day.
- Literary. I read widely, and am trying to hit 100 books this year instead of spending all my time reading articles (although that’s important, too.) I feel like some of my best stories and ideas were influenced by the great books and short stories I’ve read.
- Exploratory. I’ve written extensively on here about method writing exercises and other ways to turn storytelling into an excuse for going on adventures. Be curious about the world, and find a way to be open to new experiences.
Depending on my schedule, I try to fill my week with a mix of all of the above. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m caught in a work vortex and don’t end up getting out as much as I’d like.
You have to live life to write about life, so make it an interesting one!
Step 2: Pick Your Kinetic Activities
This year, I’m getting my yoga certification training so I can teach yoga for television writers! I’m going to be offering late-night classes for my fellow night owls and those working in writers’ rooms as writers or assistants. Anyone is welcome, TV writer or not, so be sure to follow my yoga Instagramso that you can stay up to date to my class offerings.
Shameless plug aside, I gravitated to yoga six years ago because it’s this creatively refreshing way to clear your mind, relieve stress, and finally do that cool handstand at literally any place, any time. (My most impressive life goal, I think.)
Finding yoga and meditation helped my writing tenfold, because it helped my brain set aside the toxic stress that was muddling it, and because it allowed me to get in touch with my creative thoughts in a judgment-free, calming setting.
When you’re working through creative blocks, you know the importance of getting to this calming flow state in order to come up with those truly brilliant solutions and scenes.
That’s why building some sort of kinetic activity into your weekly writing schedule is so important! That combination of endorphins and stress-relieving movement unlocks creative thought in a way that’s both addicting and highly effective.
You don’t have to be gym rat or a marathoner or even someone who likes exercise to get the benefits from simple kinetic activities. Here are some great ideas of activities to work into your weekly schedule:
- Take a dance class, go out dancing with friends, or just turn up the volume and dance when you’re cleaning your home. I love dance because it’s a way for me to express myself beyond the page, and meet new people. I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer at USC, and I still keep up my salsa and pole dance as well. Social dances like swing dancing and salsa allow you to get out and meet new people, and even if you’ve only taken one or two classes you can have a ton of fun and enjoy a night of dancing.
- Yoga — but not just a tough vinyasa class. Look for restorative and yin yoga classes that focus on meditation exercises and deep stretching, especially if you’re new to yoga. You don’t have to do ten thousand chatarangas and side planks to benefit from yoga.
- Running, walking, jogging, hiking. Some of my best ideas have come to me on a jog by the beach, a hike, or even just a walk around my block. If you hate exercise, just try walking more. Put in your headphones, listen to an audiobook or your favorite music, and allow your mind to wander. I especially love walking meditations, and find these are the best ways to work past writers’ block if I’ve been inside writing all day.
Getting in at least 3-4 kinetic activities in a week will help your energy levels and mood, but the more the merrier.
I work out every day, but try and keep it varied: I’m either out dancing with friends, going to a yoga class, pole dancing, running, or doing a restorative yoga sequence at home to keep things interesting. Do what makes you happy: this shouldn’t be a chore, it should be a way to energize your mind and your body so that you’re not groggy or sluggish when it comes time to write.
Step 3: Pick Your Reflection Activities
Reflection is critical to living a full life and writing authentically.
I use the app Headspace for meditation exercises, and they have a great set of programs geared toward creative thought (and falling asleep!) I find that meditation is particularly important if you’re writing against a deadline or on a show: when things are busy and you feel creatively drained, meditation can help you slow down, clear out stress, and get back to what matters.
I use Evernote for journaling and freewriting, and it’s been a great platform to look back on how far I’ve come.
Reflection — in whatever form you prefer — is important to help synthesizing your view on the world, and to live an examined life, which I write more about here.
The themes that pervade our stories come from a deep internal place, and the more self-awareness we have around our internal state of being, the more we can articulate challenging themes on the page.
Look back at some of the things you’ve watched, read, or listened to lately. There’s a difference between the great stories that are told bravely and breathlessly, and the less-than-great stories that seem to only skim a surface or repurpose tropes. That difference comes from both craft and self-awareness. That’s why it’s important to build in self-reflection to your weekly writing routine.
Step 4: Design Your Writing Process and Schedule
Deadlines stress me out and I hate them. So, when I’m working on my own projects, I prefer to instead work by ‘project tracking’: I have my handy whiteboard filled with milestones, and I check them off when I complete them. I have both a weekly writers’ group and a monthly writers’ group, so I have people to hold me accountable so that I’m making progress even without hard and fast deadlines.
On projects that I *do* have deadlines, I make sure I set out progress milestones on my calendar, but I make them super aggressive so that I can give myself enough time to push them and take days off when I need to and still be on-schedule.
What’s your process? How do you like to complete projects? Do you prefer to work with deadlines and page count goals, or just strive for some sort of progress every day?
Asking yourself these questions and figuring out what kind of writer you are will help when we get to this next part — designing your weekly writing schedule.
The best writing schedules are made with your goals and your writing process in mind.
With that, here’s what to think about when you’re creating your writing schedule:
Are you a morning or evening writer?
I go back and forth, honestly, but knowing when you have the most energy to write is important if you have control over your schedule. If you don’t have control over your schedule, you have to decide whether writing before or after work is
When I was an assistant at an agency, I used to wake up at 5am and write every morning at a Starbucks down the street from my work. I’ll be honest: it SUCKED. I got sick often, I was exhausted, I hated being awake in the dark when it was cold outside, and it was just plain hard, especially as someone who isn’t a morning person.
But those morning writing sessions got me the pilot that got me my next two jobs, as a showrunners’ assistant and then a writers’ assistant on my dream shows. The struggle and early mornings were worth it, because I didn’t have energy at the end of an 11+ hour work day to write.
Now, I happily write in both the mornings and evenings depending on what my schedule is like. When I’m in the writers’ room, I write before work, and when I’m not, I usually write in the afternoons or evenings. I find that my moodiest, most dramatic scenes usually get written at night, and my action scenes usually are easiest in the morning after a few cups of coffee.
How many hours do you prefer to write for one writing session?
Are you a marathon writer or do you prefer to write for shorter periods of time?
Personally, I’m a marathon writer. When I’m working on a project, I like to carve out 5+ hour time blocks to completely immerse myself in the page.
I also can get distracted by meetings or other things I have to do during the day, so if I have a busy day with things to do, I usually just do a shorter writing session (maybe an hour or two) and try to block out other full days when I don’t have anything planned to really make a dent in a draft.
Build your weekly schedule around what works best for you. The adage about “write every day” doesn’t work for everyone — at least, not for me. I need days off, days to refill my well, and then I can happily spend an entire day writing when I’ve done enough of the research and prewriting to sit down and bang out a draft. Make sure your writing routine honors the way you work.
How can you design and use spaces around you to inspire your writing routine?
I’m a diehard coffeeshop writer. Not just because there’s this cute barista with an Australian accent at one of my favorite coffeeshops (okay, that’s part of the reason) but because I need to be in spaces that are inspiring and calming to write. Sometimes that’s my apartment, but often times it’s not.
If I do write at home, though, I turn on my essential oil diffuser, light some candles, and make sure my desk is clean and organized and ready for me to get to work.
I have friends who like to write at the beach, at museums, parks, and other places out in nature. Find what works for you, and craft a writing routine that utilizes these interesting spaces.
What do you need to sit down and write? How can you create spaces or go to places that inspire you?
A Sample Weekly Writing Routine
With all of that in mind, here’s what my weekly writing routine when I’m not traveling or in a writers’ room!
On Sunday mornings, I meet with my writing partner, and we have a creative brainstorming session for our next project or we collaborate on our current outline or script pages. We usually meet at inspiring coffeeshops with outdoor patios, and I try to show up earlier so I can get some reading in. I read the New York Times and the New Yorker every week along with two books and assorted articles I find on Twitter. (If you have any recommendations, let me know!)
I usually spend the day prepping my schedule and cleaning my apartment so that I can start the week knowing what I want to write and what kind of milestones I want to pass. I’ll get done any freelance work I need to finish, and then I have an evening yoga class.
Right now, I’m working on a novella, so my goals have been around trying to dive deeper into fleshing out certain aspects of the story that are a bit murky and getting more words down on the page.
On Mondays, I’m more goal-oriented with my writing since I have my writers’ group from 7-10pm every week. Usually, I’ll be finishing some sort of outline or bible or pages that I want to bring in to group, so I’ll spend the entire morning and afternoon working on whatever that is. I usually work from home on Mondays.
Tuesdays are usually the days I buckle down and work on my writing and also catch up on any freelance work I need to do. I still have to do all the boring adult stuff and admin stuff every week, and I try to get it out of the way on Tuesdays. I top off the day with either drinks with fellow creatives, a yin yoga class, or a spin pole class.
If possible, I try and schedule any meetings, lunches, and networking drinks during Wednesdays or Fridays since it helps break up my work days. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes it isn’t, but I try and use my Wednesdays as a day to get out of my apartment and meet with people or work at a coffeeshop.
Thursday’s another marathon work day, usually, topped off with a yoga class, pole class, or a work sesh with my writing partner. During my work days, I’ll try and write all day and keep any errands or unrelated work to a minimum, but sometimes freelance work and other obligations creep in.
I try and spend my Fridays with friends, going out to small concerts featuring bands you’ve never heard of and probably never will, going to pole dancing classes, or catching up on my television.
I’ll spend the morning and afternoon writing and working on what I need to get done before the weekend, but I try to spend more time reading or researching instead as the week winds down.
Oddly enough, I’ve found that coming back after a night out and writing a scene or two leads to some interesting pages and scenes.
On Saturdays I spend the morning pole dancing, then I have my Dungeons and Dragons group (don’t knock it ’till you try it!) and then in the evening I’ll usually go out dancing with friends, go to a party, or go to an immersive theater event. I try and take the day off from writing since I’m doing all of these other creatively fulfilling and fun things instead.
Once a month, I’ll meet with another writers’ group and usually practice pitching a new idea.
Create a Life That Inspires You
Ultimately, the best weekly writing schedules are the ones that allow you to do your best work. You want it to motivate you while allowing room for reflection and rest. Avoiding burnout should be just as important as finding creatively rich activities each week.
What does your writing routine look like? Get @ me on Twitter and let me know!