Daily Routines of Great Writers

Who likes routine?

I like the idea of routine. I love plotting out a new routine and imagining sticking to it and finding that perfect writing rhythm…but, well, let’s just say none of that has worked out for me yet. 😉 So instead, I turn to the classics for example and inspiration.

I love examining the routines of brilliant people. I love seeing what possibly had a hand in their brilliance. I like thinking I can try to do the same thing, so I thought it’d be fun to share some of them here. Maybe it’ll inspire you.

 

C. S. Lewis

The great penner of our beloved Narnia seemed to relish routines. His ideal routine, which he stuck to for a while, is shared in Surprised by Joy and, honestly, it sounds like a pretty pleasant one to me.

  • 8:00 – breakfast
  • 9:00 – He’s at his desk to read or write until 1pm.
  • 11:00 – TEA TIME! (I can totally get on board with this.)
  • 1:00 – Lunch time!
  • 2:00 (at the latest) — Lewis would take a long walk (alone), but no longer than 2ish hours.
  • 5:00 -7:00 – back to writing/reading
  • Supper
  • In bed no later than eleven!

I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. – C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy

I think this one is my favorite. I love the writing-tea-writing-food-walk-writing schedule Lewis has and it’s somewhat similar to mine (though much more scheduled than mine is.)

 

Mark Twain

Mark seems to place the same value on food the way I do, because this was his schedule:

  1. Eat a giant breakfast
  2. Lock himself in his study
  3. Come out for dinner
  4. The end.

I’m willing to bet there are several of you who can relate to Mr. Twain. Apparently, if his family needed him, they would blow a horn. LOL. (source)

 

Lew Wallace

Lew Wallace — the author of Ben-Hur — he wrote the majority of that manuscript sitting outside beneath the same beech tree, which sound GLORIOUS if I could just have a little deck and rocker and cute table (and beech tree) like he does. (And as long as someone pays the mosquitoes to stay away. Though I guess if I dressed all the way up to your chin the way he did, the mosquitoes wouldn’t even get to me.)

Here was his schedule:

  • 7:30 – wake up!
  • 9:00 – 12:00 – writes, writes, writes
  • 12:00 – break (possibly for food)
  • 1:30 – 4:00 – writes again!
  • 4:00 – 6:00 – “exercises” (and his version of exercising means riding a horse or walking.)
  • 9:30 – goes to sleep.

“To this habit of taking regular exercise I attribute my good health. I eat just what I want and as much as I want.” – Lew Wallace

Sounds good to me. Let me just go buy a horse real quick…

 

Jane Austen

Jane got up early to play the piano before anyone else woke. (The house must have been rather large for her piano playing not to wake everyone. Just sayin’).

  • 9:00 – She made breakfast for the family
  • Then she wrote in the sitting room until dinner.
  • After dinner, she read her works-in-progress aloud to her family. (Brave girl!)

For some reason all these classic writers had the guts to read their stuff to people. I can’t! I just can’t! The first draft is so…so…it’s like making people eat dinner before it’s cooked. (“Here, try this raw chicken, I just plopped it in the pan.”)

Maybe I’m just a coward. And I’m okay with that. 😛

 

J. R. R. Tolkien

It was very hard to find much on Tolkien. Maybe he was a bit like me and didn’t stick to a daily routine. (So does that mean he doesn’t belong in this blog post? Hm…)

But apparently I’m a bit like him because he wrote by hand and by typewriter. He even brought his typewriter to bed with him and wrote there! (Also like me. Writing in bed, with tea…) I approve of his methods. But typewriters are heavy, so I applaud him for enduring probably several evenings of numb limbs.

“I like typewriters; and my dream is of suddenly finding myself rich enough to have an electric typewriter built to my specifications, to type the Fëanorian script.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

 

Yes. Just yes. Please someone create a typewriter that types Elvish.

 

Nadine Brandes

Oh, um, well, this author hasn’t really figured out her routine yet.

  • ??:00 – Wakes up
  • 10:00 – TEA
  • 12:00 – FOOD
  • 12:30 – maybe words?
  • ??:00 – sleep.

*ahem*

Okay, no actually I do have somewhat of a routine, but I wanted to do a fun blog post on my quirky routine (with videos!) and share that with you some other time. In short, it involves a lot of tea, walking, and coffee shop-ing.


Or we could all just be like Victor Hugo and wake at dawn to the gunshot of the nearby fort, swallow two raw eggs, and then lock ourselves in our writing lookout until 11:00.

 

 

Do you have a daily routine? What does your ideal daily routine look like?

If you had to choose one of the above routines, which would you choose?

 

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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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33 Comments

  1. Love this!!! Mark Twain… XD I write an hour before breakfast, another hour before lunch while kids are finishing school, then fit around two hours into the afternoon, depending on how other work is going. If I’m lucky, I’ll word war with a friend for an hour after 8:00 at night, when the loudest of my siblings are in bed. 😀 As for food… the only reason I eat half the meals is because I have to prepare the for the little ones. Or rather, that is the only reason I eat real meals instead of chocolate and Pringles.

    • I feel like you’re a Jane Austen! With all your siblings and making food! 😛 And I’m glad that you don’t just live off of chocolate and Pringles (as tempting as it is. 😉 )

  2. this post made me laugh out loud so funny. If I had an ideal routine, it would be, writing all day from about 8:30 until 3 when the kids get out of school. I tend to forget to eat lunch if I’m on a roll. I usually take breaks for snacks or social media whenever I finish writing or editing a chapter. AS IT IS that is a non existent routine because I work during the day so my ACTUAL routine is:
    7-8 wake up, feed kids, get ready for work.
    8-3 ish. Work
    4-7 come home, cook dinner, get kids to bed, spend time with hubby
    7-8 spend time with hubby, read
    8-10 write (well right now I’m editing)
    10 or 11 bed time.
    If my 19 m old didn’t wake up at 6am EVERY DAY, (including weekends) I would write until 1am on the weekends. I used to. It was awesome. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep catches up with you brutally.
    I enjoy your posts Nadine. Take care and keep writing 🙂

  3. Haha, this was so fun!! And Tolkien’s goals of a Feanorian typewriter……awesome #authorgoals, right there. 😀

  4. CS Lewis! He woke at a sane hour and went to bed not too terribly early plus had time to exercise 2 hours. Lew Wallace was okay but went to bed way too early.
    I mostly write in the evenings and when my kids are at lessons, etc.
    I had a “confessions” post on Ralene Burke’s blog last week about my life. There was a Facebook thread a couple of weeks ago that inspired me to use the time tracking app for tracking my writing. My goal is 20 hours/week. One of the first things I did when I started writing was to decide it was a ministry and not a hobby. This new approach will be helpful in making sure I truly adequate devote time to it.

    • I meant “truly devote adequate time”. I was a bit distracted. My third grader and I were talking & listening to the birds while she waited for the bus. My schedule must have time for these moments.

    • Wow, thinking of writing as a ministry and not a hobby. O.o #mindblown That would align my writing perspective so beautifully! I do see it as a ministry, but I don’t think I view it that way in the day-to-day. You’ve given me a lot to think on regarding my daily writing habits. 😀 (Also, I’m a mixture of Lewis and Wallace, too, I think.)

  5. Haha! I’d love a little outdoor writing place like Lew Wallace, but the mosquitoes would be a problem. And I’d probably die of heat stroke if I dressed like that. 😛

    I’ve actually just started to get into a routine after I challenged myself in February to write at least 100 words/day. Because of work, writing time is in the evening, but sometimes doesn’t happen until 11 pm. Whoops. 🙂

    • Speaking of a little outdoor writing place, there’s a small waterfall in the park where I live and I used to take my headphones and a notebook to write.
      Unfortunately, as much as DREAM of being the writer who hand writes the 1st draft…I can’t do it. So it was fun, writing by the waterfall, but I didn’t accomplish any real progress in my book. 😟😮

      • Progress doesn’t always have to be words on a page. Just remember that. Brainstorming and just resting in God’s inspiring creation can also be progress. 🙂 That waterfall area sounds lovely!

    • Agreed! Now, if it was a mosquitoless place with perfect temperatures year around…I just need to find it. 😛

      Bravo on your February writing goal! That’s an excellent goal! Chipping away at the story one day at a time adds up much faster than you might think. Keep at it!

  6. Austin or Lewis. 🙂

    When I was writing a lot, I tried to have a routine. I even printed up a very realistic schedule that allowed time for cleaning the kitchen after meals and folding laundry. But I never gave it a shot! 😣😯😢😟Maybe next month, with CampNaNoWriMo!

    • Oh you should try it during CampNaNo! What an excellent idea! I think I might write up a special “camp” routine and maybe, if it works, I’ll stick to it in the months after NaNo, too!

  7. Lewis’ sounds like paradise!

  8. I think I like Lewis’s best! I appreciate that he gets up at a normal time–8am!! I can handle that! XD

    Hmm…my schedule is very floppy, especially because I work weird hours that are different every week (yuk–but that will be changing soon), and also because school. But an ordinary, ideal day looks like this:

    8am–wake up/breakfast
    9-12–school/work
    12-2–lunch/writing
    2-5–school/work
    6–FOOD
    ???–sleep

    This was such a fun post!!

  9. I have no routine but I was up at 11 last night typing on the laptop while in bed and the weight of it or the angle of my legs or something was wrong and they went asleep on me. I think Tolkien also wrote outside in the garden when he felt like it. I never read anything of mine to others even handing them a finished first draft is completely terrifying.

    • Ack! Yes, that tends to happen–especially with laptops. Can you imagine it being a typewriter? O.o I love that Tolkien wrote out in a garden! I want a garden now.

  10. This was so fun!!!! I’m definitely the most like Lewis in my routine (when I can keep it) but what of the others…the kids, spouses, door knockers (who I unashamedly hide from whilst peeking through the blinds to see if they’re worthy of me opening the door-most aren’t 😉) and the electronic others (of course, this probably want a problem for most of the writers mentioned 🤔). Right now I’ve taken the kids to school; read my Bible; had my second cup of tea; and have read this great post! Now I need to edit/write …and probably brush my hair 😂

  11. This was sooo much fun to read. My routine consists of much school and child-minding. *makes face* Wake up, make breakfast, school until it’s done, watch siblings and/or nanny, dinner, procrastinate writing, bed. 😛

    I reeeaaally want to have Lewis’s, but schoolwork and siblings exist. Twain’s sounds like my brother minus the writing part. Horns are generally involved.

    • You’re like Jane Austen! 😉 Yes, I think I’m more envious of Lewis and Austen and everyone living in gorgeous houses out in the country than I am of their schedules. 😛 I feel like having a garden right outside your door (or Middle Earth/Narnia/etc) would really help my writing habits blossom. 😛

  12. This is great. A lot of my favorites in this list. Lew Wallace!

  13. Hey! I was looking forward to this blog post to see if I could also learn from the classics, but after reading their routines, I’m a bit discouraged. I would totally love to be able to have their routines, especially Lewis’s with the 2 hour walk, hey, I’ll even do a 30 min walk! Since I’ve started working full-time as a special needs teacher’s aid, I have lost my routine. I’ve been reading and trying to figure out how to set up a realistic routine and find my writing rhythm. Three days two weeks ago I woke up an hour early and finally saw progress, but then I got sick. I was writing 8-10, but there are so many distractions and interruptions and now my brain is so exhausted by then. So, we shall see. Currently my schedule is:

    6am wake up, make breakfast, get ready for work, kids ready for school and out the door by 7:10
    7:25 – 4, work + waiting on the bus for my son to arrive where I’m working.
    4-5 home, decompress, kids stuff,
    5-730 make dinner, eat, clean up kitchen, kids ready for bed
    8-10 Should be writing…. but considering waking up at 5. (except on Awana nights, where I’m the game director.)

    Thanks for sharing that this is something you’re trying to figure out as well.

    • Aww, I’m sorry you’re discouraged! As I was writing this post I was wondering how often these writers stuck to their routines. And actually, the routine for C. S. Lewis came from him talking about his ideal routine. Yes, he stuck to that routine for a time–but it was a very short time in his life when his wife was alive. He was sharing the routine with nostalgia, so I think a lot of us are blessed to even have a short time of our lives that has a routine.

      I don’t have a consistent routine either and I think that comes from the fact we live in a MUCH different culture than any of these writers. And who knows? Maybe 50 years from now someone will look back at our comments and think, “Wow, I wish I could have a routine that allows me a few minutes to write every day.” I think the key is to find the routine that works for us and trust God to prepare our minds in the time that we are given. It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to not write every day. Writing doesn’t always mean words on paper, it can mean brainstorming, studying characters in the books you’re reading or the movies you’re watching. Spiritual growth.

      I can’t imagine how you have ANY energy to write with a schedule like that! No matter what, don’t feel guilty for not writing. God has called you to a specific schedule and life routine right now and all He asks is that you be faithful with that time. He knows there are only 24 hours in a day and He would much prefer you to rest in Him than to run yourself into the ground forgetting to breathe. 😉

      Don’t know if that helps at all. I’m cheering for you and praying for you, my friend!

      • Thank you Nadine! Your words do help and I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I’ve been reading Chris Fox’s series on Write Faster, Write Smarter. I am hoping that I will find that rhythm that works for me and develop better lifelong habits. Once book three is published, then I can let it go. We’ll see where God is guiding me. I’m reading The Forgotten Way, or at least trying to. Ha! God knows we can’t do it all, but why do we think we should be able to? So I’m going to try to get my brain to realize that. Ha! Thank you for the cheers and the prayers. I appreciate them. Let me know how I can be praying for you.

  14. Thanks for sharing these routines, Nadine! I’m searching for a routine that works with my weird schedule, but my main issue, I think, is spontaneity. I dislike routine, as a rule (or maybe I just dislike rules 🙂 Yet I need to write, and write more than I do now!

    I like the idea of having a goal of a certain number of hours a week, and I then fitting them in wherever and whenever I can. That way, if I want to dig into Tozer for an hour, I have the freedom to do that. Or if I get the writing bug and spend five hours at a time…well, yay!

    Nice in theory, but so many other things crowd in, it’s hard to make it happen. I think the concept that Gretchen brought up of viewing writing as ministry (and thus priority) is key no matter if you have a routine or general goals. I also try to view writing as worship. God’s given me the gift, and if I write with a worshipful heart and for the purpose of glorifying Him…wow. It just sheds a whole new light on writing time!

    Now, if only I could think like that throughout my day-to-day… 😉

    Thanks again for sharing with us!

  15. Wow! Thanks for this fascinating look into some other authors’ routines. I’ve never been one for routine, so I think any of these would be near impossible for me to follow. I have to admit, they all call for self-discipline which falls very low on my ‘Jeb’s strengths’ list, lol. Buuuut I do try to squeeze in writing whenever I can. And I LOVE Gretchen’s idea of writing being a ministry…absolutely!!

I love hearing from you!