Creative minds are rarely neat...

Guest Author: The Writing Routine by James R. Bottino

From 2006 – 2010, I wrote for the site Fiction Scribe on the 451 network (neither are now operating). This post is from that time. Because of that, some comments may be dated.

The Canker Death by James BottinoLike most authors, I have a day-job, so I have to find a way to work-in time for writing.  The first place I found time was by ditching the TV.  That’s not entirely true, I still have a boob tube that I use to watch a movie or two every weekend, but I don’t watch it at all most days of the week.  This simple exercise provided me with large blocks of open time.

Next, I made use of this extra time by establishing a routine for writing.  I tried writing after coming home from work, but, since my day-job is very mentally demanding, I found that I was too drained to be particularly creative.  Through trial and error, I found that mornings worked best for me.  Being a night-owl by nature, waking up early wasn’t easy for me, but I made it work.

After deciding to kill two birds with one stone, I started a routine alternating writing with exercise.  Three days a week I wake up at 4:00am and exercise for around an hour and a half before going to work, and on a different three days of the week I wake up at 4:00am and write until I have to start getting ready for work.  I normally get between an hour and two hours of uninterrupted writing in during the writing sessions.

The challenge is when the writing days are non-consecutive because in that case I’m spending a good deal of time reading my notes, remembering where I was going and getting my mind into the flow and mood of what is happening in the story.  Some of the writing days are spent re-reading, planning and writing notes.  Some are used for writing back-story that never appears in the finished story, but which I need to have in order to make things feel real and consistent – to find the motivations behind why things are the way they are in the actual story.

And, of course, the most fun days are those when I know I have my mental ducks in a row and I can just write.  I usually stick to what I’ve planned, but, sometimes, I get into a zone and come up with stuff I never imagined I was going to write.

One unexpected thing that I found during this routine of alternating exercise with writing is that I end up testing out ideas, solving conundrums and creating new avenues or even universes on the days I am not writing.  I know there is a good deal of research to show that exercise helps with thinking, but I had no idea when I started just how integral the off-days were going to be for the work of creating a story.

Let me put it this way, if my latest novel made me a millionaire tomorrow, I would not change my exercise/writing regimen.  Without a doubt, creating a routine for writing was the single most important step in making writing an integral part of my life.


About James Bottino

James R. Bottino’s life-long interests mix esoteric and disparate fields of study. By day, his foremost influences have been the study of literature and the art of writing. Following these pursuits led him to read anything he could in these areas and to complete every under-graduate and graduate course available to him in the field of creative writing. Following this line, he taught high school English throughout the 1990’s, focusing on the teaching of writing.

By night, when no one was looking, he studied computer systems / networks, computer languages, and operating systems, learning anything he could in these areas, first as a hobby, and, finally, as a career. This mixture of literature and technology served as the inspiration for the The Canker Death’s protagonist, Petor.

James currently lives in a suburb of Chicago, with his wife, daughter, two Australian cattle dogs and far, far too many books and abstruse computers.

You can visit his website at

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