Category Archives: Time and Space

Writing: Why You Need a Routine

As a caveat to this article, I have to point out that this is something I am struggling with. The thing is, because I struggle with it, I see very clearly why it is important.

Twyla Tharp, a world famous dancer, choreographer, and writer, says that creativity is a habit. Your body gets used to certain patterns of behavior like going to the gym, brushing your teeth, or getting up for school or work in the morning. The more you practice these routines the more automatic they become and the easier it is for your body to slip into habit without any conscious effort on your part. This is a fascinating mechanism and one that is not only applicable to the physical.

Habits are the result of well-used neural pathways in the brain. Word association is a perfect example of this. When you hear the word blue, what is the first image or word that pops into your head? Is it ocean? Car? Eyes? Sky? Whatever your particular association is, it is due to the fact that you most often think about the color blue in connection with that thing. These pathways form when you perform events in a certain sequence. The more you practice a particular task, the stronger that particular neural path becomes. The stronger the connection, the less time you’ll spend thinking about a task before (or while) accomplishing it.

By establishing a consistent writing routine, you’re teaching your brain what you expect it to do. The routine can be portable (meditating for five minutes while listening to a specific song) or stationary (opening your laptop/notebook while sitting at a specific table in your neighborhood coffee shop). Your routine can be set by the clock (it starts every morning at 10 a.m.) or chronologically flexible (wherever you have a block of time to set aside in your schedule). Your routine can be whatever you need it to be, but certain actions must remain the same each time. You must train your brain to know what’s coming when you turn off your cellphone, grab a package of M&Ms, and open your word processing program. You must make it habit to write when you walk to the bakery down the street, buy a cup of tea, and open your notebook. The more you practice this routine, the easier you will find it to spend less time thinking about writing and more time writing.

I have the wherewithal to challenge myself for my entire life. That’s a great gift.
Twyla Tharp