Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 14: Writing Habits

We get asked a lot about our writing habits. So your Writing Excuses hosts spend the whole ‘cast discussing their schedules, their work environments, and the things they do to make themselves more productive while keeping themselves creative. Peace and quiet? Clothing? Distractions? Pants? We answer these questions and more. Will any of this work for you? You tell us! The comments are a great place to discuss.

Howard mentioned PeopleWare, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. You can buy it here.


25 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 14: Writing Habits”

  1. I go to my library and plug the laptop on in a quiet corner. I’ve tried to work at home but the fact that I have such a small house that my “office” is also my front room with the TV looking me right in the eye the entire time, so I moved my “spot”. It’s a two story building, so there are tons of places up stairs that no one even goes around (non fiction sections).

    The library is right across the street from my job, so right after I get off I just walk over there for a few hours (I get off at 5:30 PM, and the library closes at 9 o’clock). The only problem this had caused is that I have to eat lunch later so that I’m not starving by the time I leave the library.

    P.S. My pants are on at all times during work and writing.

  2. My experience with NaNoWriMo helped me get into a routine. Basically, it was just that I had to have the mind-set that I was now going to work, after I got home from work. It came I think, with the realization that I want to do this for a living. Or at least give it a shot. And that means I can no longer treat it as a hobby. If I’m going to be a professional, then I need to act professionally. I now end up scheduling, not all my time, but a lot of it, into manageable chunks. Work, family, work, and a little that I can play with for spontaneity. But that’s just me. :)

  3. I have a room at my place which is a study more or less. It’s filled with books and two computers. There I sit from 7:30 (I get up at 6:30) till 16:00 at which point I go downstairs to the livingroom to read till 17:30 at which point my wife comes home from her real job.
    During that time I work 45/50 minutes per hour and then take 10/15 minutes off. I do one hour of writing, then an hour of doing something writing related. (can be a podcast/a book on writing/ writing related forums/ proofreading/writing feedback) With a one hour lunch break.
    Overall I get three to four hours of actual writing done each day. I need to take the hourly breaks though else my concentration just runs out after about an hour and a half.
    Sometimes I listen to music while writing, in order to catch a certain mood, or to drown out outside noises. It has to be intrumental though, or so familiar I no longer really hear the lyrics.

  4. If I’m going to be a professional, then I need to act professionally.

    That’s the principal reason I succeeded straight out of the gate with Schlock Mercenary: I decided that I wanted to be a professional cartoonist, so I started acting like one. My art got better fast, and I never missed an update. That went a long way towards building a big audience.

  5. I don’t know how helpful this podcast was to you guys, but it was certainly one of the more entertaining ones to record.

  6. I’ve developed a schedule for myself for this year, something that came out of NaNo.

    Monday – Thursday: Write 1750 words each day after work. Actually, I come home, hit the treadmill, eat dinner, watch the news and by 9:00 PM head up to the extra room turned into my office/library and write for a while, until I either hit my word count or continue on to finish a chapter.

    Friday: Free day to do as I please (well, after work, of course).
    Saturday and Sunday: Reading, reading, reading.

    Getting on the treadmill upon coming home from work allows me the time to get into the writing mindset, even if I won’t actually be sitting down to write for close to two hours later.

    As Ben mentioned earlier in the comments, I also want to become a professional writer and have begun to act accordingly. While it is something I love to do, it is also a second job now (even if it doesn’t come with being paid for it…yet).

    Thanks for this episode. I’m always interested in things like this.

  7. We loves to hear that, precious :)

    I’m glad the workshop was helpful, Hezekiah, and the website enjoyable.

    BTW, doing the workshop again this year at ltue, but I’ve made some important changes to it. Hopefully, it’s even better this time. If you come, please make sure you introduce yourself.

  8. My writing time is usually late at night–or reaaaalllly early in the morning, if you prefer. I start writing after my wife goes to bed, usually around 11:30 and write until 2:00 or so. It’s a hard schedule to maintain, but I don’t want to sacrifice any time with my family, so that’s what I do.

    I listen to classical music. If I’m writing action scenes I like movie scores–Lord Of The Rings in particular is usually quite inspiring. I can’t listen to popular music when I write or I find myself trying to sing along.

  9. For me, a schedule is a joke at best. Between being a full-time student in J-school and a writer for a news publication I rarely have a routine in anything. When I do have “free time” (between 1 and 3 am), I write assuming I’m not completely drained from writing news articles or papers for class. 3,500-4,000 words a day is my limit. Period.
    This cast was certainly helpful for me, but I don’t think I will be able to reap the full benefits until Fall of next year when I will have some sort of semblance of a daily routine.

  10. I’m pretty much in a similar boat to Jake. The podcast was great! It was quite inciteful as to how you guys approach your work.

    My writing schedule is erratic at best. I work full time and go to school part time. I also have a 3 year old and one on the way. I may have my AA by Spring, but with a baby coming, not sure of that now.

    My passion and desire to write are definitely still present. And they will get their chance to be a priority. I really hope that chance is soon. The stories duking it out in my head right now are giving me a headache ;) I just really need to finish out at least the AA if not the whole BA because I want my kids to understand that school is important. I should have found a way to stay in college years ago when I went the first time, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    Anyway, I hope that I get to put all the tips that I learned from the podcast into practice soon..

  11. Wow, this podcast was really funny. I was laughing for like 5 minutes in the car… not sure what the person behind me thought :)

    I also often listen to music while I write. It really does help get you into a certain mood and gives your writing a slightly different style, I think.

    So Dan, when you listen to music as you write are you actually able to go back later, read what you’ve written, and remember what you were listening to?

  12. Oh! I meant to mention that, too.. I also listen to soundtracks while I write.. In addition to LOTR, I also find Last of the Mohicans to be especially good at evoking strong emotions of various types..

  13. I think Brandon cut Howard off when he was explaining at the beginning of the podcast. So I thought I would try to help. Just some ideas.

    Why you shouldn’t write wearing shoes but no pants:

    1. If you do BICHOK with a metal chair, your B may freeze to it.
    2. When you try to polish your shoes on the back of your pants, your legs turn black.
    3. It’s hard to tuck your shirt into your socks.
    4. Curious cats climbing to see what you are doing may cause screams.
    5. You thought spitting hot coffee on a keyboard was bad?
    6. Caution. Bottom of the laptop may become extremely hot during use. Eyow!
    7. Answering the door becomes an exercise in trying to remember what you are wearing.
    8. School authorities may not understand why your child answers the question “What does Daddy do?” with, “Daddy spends all day at the computer without any pants.”
    9. If you drop your pen or pencil, you never know where it may land.
    10. That’s not what “turn the other cheek” means!

    What’s your reason? Come on, folks, let’s help Howard out — er, in to his pants.

  14. Gosh, I wish I had more of a writing schedule. I wish I had a good place to seclude myself, too. As it is, though, I’m a lot like Jake–full-time college student, living in an apartment with five other guys, no place to go except the library, and goodness knows I practically spend half my life over there as it is.

    Winter 2008, I went over to a friend’s house and wrote in his basement. It was one of the trashiest places in Provo, but the basement was a good place for me to write, for some reason. I also went over right after working out. I think that the exercise really helped to wake me up mentally and get my mind more active.

    Right now, I do a lot of writing on the public computer in the living room of my on-campus apartment. I pull up one of the really comfortable couch-chairs and set the keyboard on my lap. Sometimes I start to doze off on the chair, but on hard chairs my butt usually gets sore after an hour, and that distracts me. Usually I write late at night, so everyone else is gone and it works out great.

    I also keep track of my daily wordcount and post it online. That helps me to keep producing every day, even if I don’t have a set schedule.

  15. I had all but forgotten about Howard being in his tub of Pepsi. Ah, memories.

    In regards to keeping track of daily word count, I use novel-writing software called StoryMill (although I know a lot of people prefer Scrivener, I like StoryMill better because of the cool Timeline feature). It allows you to plug in your word count goals for each session and set a (choose your own audio file) nice musical cue to let you know when you’ve reached your goal. Very affirming.

  16. Just wondering if people count ‘editing’ as part of this writing? At some point, we all need to edit…but that’s more of ‘minus’ word count. Do any of you count editing as part of this ‘writing habit/schedule?’

  17. One principle that I want to point out is that to be a writer, there has to be sacrifice. It’s different for all of us though. The latest sacrifice that I’ve started making is to get out of bed earlier. You know, that ‘just give me five more minutes’ syndrome where we waste a half-hour in bed that could have been spent writing. I’ve found if I write for an hour first thing in the morning, I get a lot more writing done during the day. Even though I don’t get back to writing again until after exercise, shower, and breakfast, my brain is still in writing mode.

    Another thing that helps me during re-writes is to read what I want to work on the night before. It seems that my brain works on it while I sleep. The next morning, things go a lot smoother and I spend a lot less time deliberating on what to do.

  18. Well I am three years late on this podcast, but this is my take on listening to music while writing:

    I used to listen to music while writing (mostly movie soundtracks), but upon reading my passages later, while not listening to music, I noticed that they were dramatically worse than I thought they were when I was writing them. I attribute this to what I call “The Football Movie Dramatic Halftime Speech Effect.”

    This is where the coach pulls the team aside, who is at this point losing by some incredible margin, and proceeds to bathe them in an inspiring speech that bestows upon them a common epiphany, as well as a miraculous increase in athletic ability, that leads them to decimate the opposition and come back in the second half for the surprising, yet inevitable victory.

    This speech is almost exclusively accompanied by a rising symphony that lends itself to the words in such a way that if it is removed the speech actually sounds kinda stupid.

    My point being that when I am writing with music I can’t be sure if it is me who is an incredibly inspiring writer worthy of a Hugo and lots of groupies who of course want to have sex with me, or if it is the music that is inspiring and my writing is actually kinda stupid.

    Or should I write a book that plays loud symphonies during all my fight scenes? :D

Comments are closed.