Although my previous writing routine had worked for some time, I found myself — partly because of the lockdown that started in March — having to restructure my writing routine. I also used this time to consolidate the projects I’m working on and decide which ones to give my current attention to.
A new reality needs a new routine
Going from working in an office one day to working at home was a learning curve that I hadn’t expected.
Although I’d been used to writing at home as well, being at home nonstop without a commute to give me the distinction between work writing and personal writing, I floundered around a bit.
(Not to mention suddenly having to use video call applications that I’ve in the past maybe used once or twice only and having to find a spot where the light, etc. was good enough to do video calls from and still seem professional when my laptop was actually perched on my yarn totes!)
I soon started to get into the routine of being at home though, but found myself checking my work email even after work now that it was on my laptop and phone.
When I started skipping taking a proper lunch break, I realised that I needed to step away and start a new routine before I work myself into another burnout.
Regaining and keeping a work-life-writing balance
I started by setting alarms on my phone to go off when it was time to start work, start my lunch hour, end my lunch hour, and stop working.
Next I made sure to sign out of my work email at the end of the work day so that I would have more steps to be able to check it. (Our department’s project coordinator and manager knew that they could get a hold of me on WhatsApp should the pawpaw hit the fan, but they were the only ones.)
I also took breaks before and after work as if I still had commuting to do before being able to start working on my fiction or articles. While these breaks didn’t last quite as long as my usual commute, it helped a lot.
I still went to bed at the same time I normally would and get up when I normally would. As time marched on and the lockdown neared a month and a half, I found that my sleep routine was slowly changing. I slept a bit later and stayed up a bit later, but I kept a routine as well as I could until it stabilised again.
I am sure, however, that this change also has to do with the change in seasons from autumn to winter.
What main projects am I working on?
Once I got into my new routine of when I’m going to work on my personal projects, I started taking stock of what I’m busy with and what I’d like to work on right now.
For example, The Ruon Chronicles books are a given while I’m keeping the Porselein book on the back burner for now.
I also decided to revive my Medium account and to close my Patreon account and move to a Substack newsletter (The Worlds of Carin Marais). I’d let my Patreon account die a slow death in any case over the past months, so I basically wrote to my Patrons privately and invited them to join the newsletter.
Besides moving most of the fiction on to the newsletter, I also decided to divide my writing into three parts, namely:
— Fiction — fantasy, epic fantasy, scifi, etc.
— Non-fiction — book reviews, guides, etc.
— Creative non-fiction
The fiction would live almost exclusively on The Worlds of Carin Marais, and the non-fiction and creative non-fiction would live on Medium and my blog.
This will give me a clear structure to work within instead of just putting everything on my blog.
Block time out for writing and lunch
I’ve started to make use of calendar blocking to give myself an indication of what I’m working on on any particular day.
I also make a point of putting “lunch” on the calendar. This gives me less of an excuse to work through it!
Although not completely set in stone, it helps for those times when I used to sit down and wonder what on earth I was going to write about. Now I can simply look at the calendar.
Giving myself time to work on each project
I have found that I work better not only using the Pomodoro method, but also by switching projects after every three completed pomodoros.
If I am on deadline, I would simply break for a longer period than usual every three pomodoros and not start on something else. However, this break will still give my mind time to clear itself before continuing with the rest of the task on deadline.
Thus far this new routine has helped me to keep my mind on task even though I’m working on various projects. The new reality that so suddenly started in March is not as weird anymore as it was and has actually opened up enough time for me to step back and have a proper look at the way in which I am spending my time.
I have, following this new routine, worked more on my projects than I have in the previous few months.
That is not to say that the current state of the world doesn’t have an influence on how I’m working and finding using my creativity. It has simply given me a structure within which to be productive and within which I find it much easier to cope.