Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writer's Wednesday - Finding the Write Rhythm, Annie West

Today our columnist Annie West shares some thoughts with the Pink Heart Society on getting into the writing rhythm, whether you're a multi-published author or a beginning writer or somewhere in the middle... 

You'd think after having more than 25 books published writing them would become easier, wouldn't you? Well in some ways it does. I've learned not to get into utter panic when things don't play out the way I'd expected. I've learned that sometimes that's a good thing when the book is unpredictable. Who'd have thought it?
We've all heard of those writers who have a strict routine for their writing - certain hours in the day are sacrosanct to their work and, usually, a certain place and routine which help them produce their stories. More power to them! I long for that. That's the sort of rhythm that appeals to me enormously. I understand why it would work so well - training your brain to expect to create is half the battle of creating, and keeping yourself at your work instead of following distractions is the other half. 

Alas, I'm either far less disciplined than some writers or I have a messier life, but I find my days not quite that regimented. And yes, before you ask, my family understands and respects the fact that I write for a living and they try hard not to interrupt. But between appointments, tradesmen's visits, medical emergencies, smaller crises and commitments, I find my writing life is 'fluid'. That means I've had to learn to adapt.

First of all I learned the times of day I'm most productive. Early morning (or anytime in the morning) since I'm anything but a night owl. I work hard to preserve those early hours for writing, or if not actually putting words on the page, for musing on my plot while I get in some exercise. I've discovered a time late in the afternoon too, when I get a second wind and, if I keep at it, can produce some really exciting work. So my rhythm for writing is  a stint before breakfast, a walk, then a long productive morning, followed by lunch and some chores and another burst of creative energy in the latter half of the afternoon.

My advice? Discover the times of day (or night) when your brain and body are most likely to cooperate in creating and devote them to your writing. If you're not a morning person then try later - whenever the ideas spark. Discover too, where and how you work best. Computer or notebook? Desk in a quiet room or at the kitchen table with the family or even under a tree somewhere? is rarely simple. Even with the best of planning, there are days when I just can't use my preferred times for writing. So, what do you do when your 'creative' time is unavailable?

If you say you'd stop writing till you could use that preferred time again, I'd know you're someone who writes for pleasure, not publication. Those, like me, who make (or want to make) a living from their writing, need another approach.

Having once found your preferred rhythm for writing, I'm sorry to say the next step is to learn to break that rhythm when you need to. Again, if you're writing solely for fun, you're excused this step. But if you're writing for regular publication, you'll need to adapt.

At first I believed I could only write in the morning because I'm not a night person. But what do you do when half your mornings one week are taken up with outside commitments? Not write at all? It's going to be far harder the following week to get back into your normal rhythm.

My advice when the rhythm is broken is to create new one. TRY writing at a different time of day, even if it feels like you're walking in wet cement and you just know the words are trash rather than gems. Experiment with a few different times, maybe in short bursts if that's all you have available. 

I've been surprised at how, often after an initial period of discomfort, I adapt to trying something new. 

For instance, you know that post lunch slump when your body slows and your mind drifts and you wouldn't mind closing your eyes? I read somewhere that you're at your most creative when you're tired. I'm not sure if it's true but recently I decided try writing then when my instinct was to do some other chores. I found, after an initial battle during which my brain screamed that I was CRAZY and there would be no words today, thank you very much, that I had one of my most productive sessions in ages.

My preference is solitude and early hours to write, then solitude and late afternoon for more writing. That rhythm works for me on most days. But there are days (lots of them) where the luxury of my natural rhythm is denied me - whether in timing or location. On those days I've had to try something else. 

It's not easy. In fact it can be an exercise in frustration. But in the end I've found breaking the routine can be almost as productive as sticking to it. Don't be too quick to tell yourself something won't work for you. Try it. Don't give up after a mere half an hour. You may just be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve out our your writing rhythm as well as within it.

Where and when do you work best? Alone in your study? In a cafĂ©? Late at night while everyone else sleeps? Have you broken your routine and found it worked for you? 

Annie's current release is The Sultan's Harem Bride, a sizzling hot yet emotional desert romance which received a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times.:

WANTED: Desert princess to join harem 

Sultan Asim of Jazeer has hundreds of women at his beck and call. So why does he want the only one who threatens to reveal his family’s shameful secrets?

Journalist Jacqui Fletcher jumped at the chance to write a history of the harem- not to become a sultan's plaything! But it's hard to remember her assignment when the sultan's sensuous caresses spark a fire she's never experienced before...

Asim is looking for a pliable princess for a marriage of duty. Brave, beautiful Jacqui couldn't be more wrong for him. So why does holding her feel so right?


  1. Annie, what an excellent piece. I so agree with you about mixing it up and trying to find a different rhythm if the rhythm you'd like to have is disrupted. I've always found it hard to write away from home but this week I'm travelling and I'm looking forward to seeing if I can get a few pages down each day while I'm out of my comfort zone. Wish me luck. By the way, I absolutely LOVED The Sultan's Harem Bride. One of your best and Asim is the sort of hero we dream about! Well done!

  2. This is such sage advice, Annie. Really enjoyed your article. I think a lot of time we have that natural resistance to writing and we can use getting out of the routine as an excellent excuse for not writing. It might take longer to get into the flow, but when the chips are down and you have to do it, you can surprise yourself. Thank you for the reminder!