Writing routines

Since Google Reader shut down, my use of traditional blogs as a primary means of media consumption disappeared. However, the nifty architecture off RSS and utility of Google Reader has been replaced by something even stickier – the email subscription / newsletter. While Google Reader could be left unread for weeks at a time, email insists on action – address / read me now lest you face the wrath of the unread and/or inbox pileup.

The shift from GReader to GMail has made me even more attentive to sites of interest (at least those with subscription capability – notably the NYTimes daily and weekly digests, Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution early-morning missive, and the Economist’s weekly highlights, to give a special shout-out to a few). As a result of this shift, I’d argue that I’ve ceded even more control of my consumption habits than before. On the other hand, channeling my news- and interest-reading habits through the medium of e-mail has made me even more susceptible to sharing / forwarding / discussing (arguably the principal goal of these media sites), creating safer / more conducive forums than the often-/most-times toxic comments sections of sites, or the anonymous forums of Reddit, Hacker News, or other aggregator sites.

One of the email subscriptions that I’ve especially latched onto is Ryan Holiday’s project Writing Routines (obligatory mention of Ryan’s latest book, Conspiracy, out now via Portfolio / Penguin). While it ingeniously serves Ryan’s goal of increasing the exposure to his already impressive list of clients and expanding his network of writers, it also provides an intimate look into the lives of the modern day working writer – the Linkedin / Medium contributor, the copywriter, the film / television writer, the social media maven. While the now-defunct Daily Routines blog (now compiled into a nifty book) regaled us with the day-to-day lives of history’s great writers, and their often nocturnal / alcoholic / ambulatory lifestyles, Writing Routines provides a modern-day look at how productive, prolific writers tackle their writing amidst the realities of modern day life and its constant challenges seeking to pull you away from the page.

In addition to the “hacks” shared – like what type of music they listen to while writing, or what type of composition programs they use, the most impactful question to me deals with the writer’s routine – how they manage to fit in time for writing / thinking in their day-to-day lives – lives often consumed by day jobs, parenting, or other limitations.

Upon reflection, I’ve noticed how many of the writers seem to gravitate to the morning / pre-lunch hours as their most potent / important / productive time, often relegating the less thought consuming / intensive efforts for the afternoon (such as editing, taking care of errands, etc.) While I’ve long been aware of Haruki Murakami’s routine of writing at dawn, and then going out and running/swimming/biking a triathlon after composing countless pages of genius (looked this up after – not that far off), the Writer’s Routine advice seems more a great deal more relevant to me, and something that I’ve sought to heed of late as I try to turn my writing from an abstract “goal for one day” into a true habit.

For me, my love of reading and general proclivity for consumption, rarely leave me without new material to work through – even if it’s just today’s morning paper. However, I’m finding that if I forego any consumption in the morning, and instead devote myself to putting pen to page (literally – I don’t trust myself enough to be in front of a computer), the longtime fear of writing somehow dissipates, and the words flow. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I suspect it has something to do with the “noise” that soon follows you into the day – as obligations, communications, and realities begin to creep in and distract you from that thought or action you had hoped to explore before going to bed last night.

I’m hopeful that by putting this to page, and publishing it on the internet as some sort of public shaming mechanism, I can stick with the habit of writing my thoughts down in the morning, making it one (of many) routines that I can stick to in this new year.

Then again, leave it to me to be posting about this conviction just two days in…

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