“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Here’s something I just learned: Franz Kafka, surely one of the most inventive writers of the 20th century, was actually a lawyer. He spent many of his working hours laboring in the vineyards of the Accident Insurance Institute (sounds Kafka-esque, doesn’t it?) How did he manage to hold down a demanding day job and also pen his classic and chilling literary works?
Here’s how: He found a daily rhythm — or daily regimen — that worked for him and used it to his advantage. He worked from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, ate lunch, napped until 7:30, exercised, ate dinner with his family, then began writing at 11 PM for a few hours.
While Kafka’s offbeat writing regimen may not work for you, what’s worth pondering is the power that a daily writing strategy can offer. Kafka isn’t alone in his commitment to a schedule. Many successful writers find that consistent patterns and routines nourish creative achievement. Maya Angelou, for example, used to rent a local hotel room, arrive at 6:30 AM, write until 2 PM, then go home to edit. Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon writes from 10 PM to 3 AM five nights a week.
I’ve started committing to a solid three-hour block of writing time daily. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’ve had rough patches sticking to this regimen. But when I adhere to it consistently, I’ve reaped big benefits — and you may, too:
It builds my “commitment muscle:” Just the act of committing to a consistent schedule is strengthening and highly motivating.
It signals readiness for action: Once you commit to a daily strategy and pursue it with intention, your muse pays attention (See Muse Management).
It fosters relaxation: Instead of feeling tense or worrying about not writing, having a daily writing session is freeing: You know you’ve got the time to write because you’ve made the time to write: It’s waiting for you. And a relaxed mind is a creative mind.
It generates desire and anticipation: As you begin to reap the creative benefits of a daily rhythm in your writing, you find yourself looking forward to the time you’ve blocked out and your unconscious mind does, too.
We all have many demands on our time. But, inspired by Kafka and his fellow scribes, let’s strengthen our “commitment muscle” — and write on!