If we leave our writing to some vague artistic abstraction that’s exactly where it tends to stay, amongst the clouds, floating in the hemisphere of daydreams. Should a writer want to get any work accomplished, he needs to stay grounded and regimented in his practice. Though we hate to use such terms as “daily regimen” or “goal-oriented” for our Art, this mindset can be wonderfully effective when we outline step-by-step plans to tackle our novel or complete our collection of stories.
We strategize to save money for a house and implement itineraries when scheduling a trip, and when we stick to our plans, we usually get concrete results. We utilize all sorts of stratagems from career planning to juggling house chores because most aspects of life require some modicum of calculation, so why not Art? Writing shouldn’t be any less trained. 95% of the work in creating art is not some hocus pocus magic. Writing is a hard science though others who don’t practice it, who are not familiar with the discipline and rigors it daily demands, like to believe its some faery spirit that strikes with caprice. Anyone who has kept at it for years, wallpapering their rooms with rejection letters, knows the craft is essentially a bastard-bitch that must constantly be wrestled to the ground .
With this in mind, we can and probably should assign writerly tasks for each day to maintain a conscientious writer’s frame of mind. Sketch a character for Monday, outline a chapter Tuesday, tweak dialogue Thursday–even if its the bare minimum–five minutes on Sunday listing detail to add to a scene later, we need to keep the creative juices flowing and maintain momentum on our projects. This requires budgeting our time and being mindful of our schedules. We should have some sense of what our calendar is from day to day, so we must be realistic and set tasks we can conceivably accomplish in the time we’re allotted.
If an artist is too uncomfortable to think of her work in such task oriented fashion, if such a mindset kills the very spirit and drive–the whole purpose of pursuing the Art–then consider the regimen as Ritual. Writer, Elizabeth Kate Switaj, in her blog Daughter of the Ring of Fire, enlightens us on Ritual and Discipline:
Discipline brings us to this observance which may or may not be worship, yet the ritual (if it is successful) reinforces the discipline. In other words, the act of writing gives birth to itself (or, what is ultimately the same thing) to the desire for it. Read more
Whether its strategems and to-do lists, writing is a Ritual. To honor the art we must practice everyday. A writer must be a merciless predator, seeking out time and physical and mental space to dedicate to the craft. And, when we pounce on that precious hour we’ve scraped for, we should be sure to savor every morsel, sinking our teeth into the creative moment, wise not to squander a single second.