Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Lance Rubin, the author of Denton Little’s Deathdate, to the blog to talk about his writing routine!
Soon after I started writing Denton Little’s Deathdate, I realized that allotting a set number of hours a day to write wasn’t very effective for me. As a perfectionist and a procrastinator, those hours would inevitably be filled with way too much self-doubt (i.e., fiddling around with one sentence for half an hour because it didn’t sound right) and way too little productivity (i.e., an hour of Googling to find the perfect name for a tiny supporting character). So I was glad to read in Stephen King’s On Writing that he worked not in terms of hours but by word count.
King aims for two thousand words a day but suggests that people establishing a writing routine for the first time should aim for one thousand. So that’s what I did, and I immediately found it to be a much better approach. If I hit my word count within a couple hours, then I would have a shorter workday. If I didn’t, then I kept going until I did. It was helpful to have a concrete daily goal that, once met, gave me a feeling of accomplishment, like I’d done what I needed to do and could stop worrying about my writing for the rest of the day.
Thinking in terms of word count also made me less concerned with whether my work was good or bad. It’s not a writer’s job to worry about that, especially in the early drafting stages; the only job is to get the work done. This is a creative philosophy from Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, and I can’t express how helpful it’s been. If you’re trying to start and finish a creative project, you can’t wait for inspiration to strike; you need to sit down and write every day, even if it’s a struggle, even if it feels like you’re making something terrible.
Another piece of wisdom I took from Stephen King was to close the door of your office when you’re ready to start working for the day, which then signifies to anyone you live with (and also to yourself) that the Writing Has Begun. The only problem with this was that the Brooklyn apartment I shared with my then-girlfriend-now-wife didn’t have an office, and the only rooms with doors were the bedroom and the bathroom (neither of which scream office).
I’ve adapted this advice by making my headphones the proverbial “door of my office.” When the ear buds go in, it’s time to work. This is effective at my apartment, where I occasionally write, but also at coffee shops and libraries, where I mainly write. (Bizarrely enough, one of the main places where I wrote Denton Little’s Deathdate was the back room of a sandwich shop called Lenny’s. It has one of the main components I look for in a writing spot, which is that you can stay there as long as you like and no one who works there gives you dirty looks or makes you feel bad.)
The last part of my writing routine is that, right before I get started, I move my phone from my pants pocket into my bag. Since phones are one of productivity’s biggest enemies, I like making mine slightly harder to get to. It’s effective most--but not all—of the time.
And there you have it: my super-glamorous, ridiculously exciting writing routines and rituals. If you’re a writer, you should try some of these, and if you’re not a writer, I hope this was at least slightly illuminating information about one person’s process.
Thanks for having me on the blog, Sophie! Hope everyone reading this is having a mind-blowing Wednesday.
I’m always fascinated to hear how an author’s workday goes – each is so different! Thank you so much, Lance! Denton Little’s Deathdate is out now from Simon and Schuster in paperback and e-book.