Your Processes Will Set You Free

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Writing a book is hard work that extends over a year or more. You have a choice in how you will work. Some writers essentially reinvent their writing process every time. Other writers develop systems and processes that they use again and again.

When you develop systems and processes you do two things. First, you free up the energy you would spend planning a writing session so it’s available for actual writing. Second, you can improve your process and get better and better as you go along.

The good news is that there are lots of things that can help you. Checklists are one of them. Pilots use checklists. Operating teams in hospitals use checklists. Business use checklists. We use them because as the saying goes, “the palest ink is stronger than the strongest memory.”

We also use the reminder systems programmed into our phones and our computers. When you develop strong processes and use the available technology to improve them, you’ll become more productive. Here are five things to pay attention to.

Start every day strong

An effective morning routine sets you up for a successful day. The Stoics wrote about the importance of getting off to a good start. So did Ben Franklin. So have hundreds of self-help authors.

Every person’s morning ritual is different. My ritual has changed over the course of my life. Here’s what it looks like right now.

The first thing for me every day is devotions and meditation. Then I do what I call “first work.” That’s something important that I decided on the night before. When that’s done, I run through a checklist that includes checking e-mail and social media.

Writing time is a big rock

A writing session takes most people somewhere around an hour to an hour and a half. Don’t expect a chunk of time that big to magically show up. Instead, block out your writing time when you plan your week.

Starting your writing session

You should have a ritual, so you start your writing sessions the same way every time. That trains your brain to know that it’s time to write. It also sets you up for a productive writing session.

Like every other process and ritual, your session-starting ritual will be unique. Get ideas from what works for others. Here’s my ritual.

I alert any other people in the house that I’m about to start writing. Then I make sure I have my tools. Next, I minimize distractions. I turn off my phone and put it in another room. I review my start notes from my last session. More about that in a moment. I do a couple of moments of mindfulness meditation, then turn on a music playlist I’ve developed for writing. Then, it’s time to start writing.

End your writing session while the juices are flowing

Stop writing when things are going well. Decide exactly what you’re going to write when you begin your next writing session. Schedule any work you need to do between sessions. Then, put away your tools and return to the world.

Review your project weekly

I recommend reviewing your project once a week. A week is long enough for you to have done substantive work. A week is short enough to catch anything bad before it gets worse.

Ask yourself how you did last week. If you count words or pages or time spent writing, how did your performance compare with your expectations? Are you happy with the quality of your work? How might you improve it? How do you feel about your work?

You are unique. Your processes won’t be the same as any other person’s. But if you develop good writing processes, you will write better. And, if you consistently work to improve them, the processes and your writing will get better and better.

Takeaways

Processes and rituals work better than memory or self-discipline.

A morning ritual sets you up for a successful day.

Writing time is a big rock. Put it in your schedule first.

Use a start-up ritual to alert your brain that it’s time to write.

Eliminate distractions. Put your phone in another room.

End your session while you’re still going strong.

Review your writing progress weekly.

You are unique and there are a gazillion sources for ideas about writing processes.

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