The Rhythm Method

16/08/11 7:00 AM

Guess what?

I’m working on my third novel, back to putting in a minimum of 1000 words a day.

I’ve found a new rhythm that’s working quite well: I get up at 6:00 a.m. and go for a walk, about a mile. Come back, make coffee, sit down, and continue with my work-in-progress. I do all this BEFORE looking at email and BEFORE checking reviews, Amazon ranking, etc. This is key. It’s easy to get lost in some of that stuff.

I can crank out 1000 fairly polished words in two hours max — and this includes room for coffee refills and staring off into space and thinking, which qualifies as work, since the brain is still firing, and the images from the story still moving in my head.

What’s great about this method, for me, is that I can start the rest of my day around 9:00 along with the rest of world and not feel any resentment since I’ve gotten my pages in. I’m heading towards phasing out my copywriting business by the end of the year (if not before), but I still maintain a few clients right now during this transitional time, clients who deserve my full attention since they’re paying me good money to give it my all.

Luckily, because my client list is smaller now, I have room for the marketing of my creative writing “business” (selling books is a business) and, often, extra time to put in another healthy dose of words to the WIP.

Or not.

That’s key, too. Anything extra that goes above and beyond the 1000 words a day is great, but not required since I believe a big part of life has to be left for living: reading, exploring, going to movies and museums, having lunch with friends, spending time with family, sitting quietly on my balcony with a cup of coffee or tea or cocktail and listening to the wind, to the old man in my building who walks his little dog named Maggie in the parking lot below my veranda, to the birds and other critters in the woods across the way.

I love this time, when the work is so new and surprising, when the characters come alive before my eyes at the behest of my fingertips on the keyboard. I’m not sure if this will be the “it” novel; I started two different works in between Forgotten April and What Happened in Granite Creek, but I’m thinking it is. I don’t do a formal outline, but I guess I have a mental one. I have to sit with an idea for a bit, a skeleton plot forming, since I’m one of those writers who needs a destination to write towards, even if it changes along the way. But this “marinating” time makes for easy writing when I finally sit down to draft, the words and story tumbling forth.

Every day, I give several prayers of thanks, so grateful that I get to do this for a living.

Tell me, do you have a rhythm method for the work you do?

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10 Comments on “The Rhythm Method”

  1. Giora Says:

    Hello Robyn. Read your comment on Rachelle Gardner’s blog and came to say hello. The video for “Forgetting Apil” is great, both visually and the words to capture the viewer’s attention. I’ll read more of your blog later. Best wishes from Canada.

  2. Giora Says:

    Just curious. I see that your book is #7,500 on paid Kindle and #1,100,000 as a paper book. Can you share how many copies were sold on Kindle and as a paper back? You can e-mail me privetly if you don’t wish to put itin the public domain. I write in the “China Fiction” genre and follow the rankings of authors in thsi category on Amazon, but don’t know how to translate it to the number of books sold.
    For example, “Song of the Silk Road” is at #61,786 on Amazon today.

  3. Steve T Says:

    Because I have three jobs to juggle, I’ve found it difficult to settle into a rhythm. But I know this: Starting earlier woks better than finishing late. It is nice to beat the 9 a.m. workday with a few hours of “free time” to work on other projects.

  4. Ghenet Myrthil Says:

    I’m not an early AM person but because I have a full-time job and want to sneak in more writing time, I’m thinking of waking up at 6am to write for an hour and a half in the mornings before I get ready for work. I look forward to being able to write full time so I can easily get 1000 words written in a day. Your schedule sounds wonderful and I love what you said about balancing writing with living. I think the living part is just as important as the writing part.

  5. Robyn Says:

    @Giora — Thanks for stopping by! Will email you. 🙂

    @Steve — I hear you! Let’s hope you can lose one of those three soon. 🙂

    @Ghenet — it’s a glorious time of day to write, I find, especially this time of year when it’s light out early. I wish you much luck! (And yes — we writers must remember to LIVE!) 🙂

  6. Laura Says:

    Hey Robbin, I love your writing style. I too like to get up early. I usually start my day getting up at 5:00 and going for a bike ride or run in the morning, grab coffee at Dunkin Donuts, get settled in and begin my work day around 8:30- 9 ish. I have been busy working with doing the marketing for my clients that my own marketing has taken a back seat– that’s something I need to change!

  7. Mike Says:

    1000 words a day is a great method. When I choose to write, this is the kind of pace that I like to keep.

  8. Robyn Says:

    @Laura — thanks so much, and thanks for stopping by. Here’s the early morning warriors! 🙂

    @Mike — yeah, that number seems to work for me. I think the key is consistency. Whether a writer opts for word count, page count, and or time spent writing, as long as she or he is committed to “it,” that’s what counts.

  9. James Altucher Says:

    Mine very similar to yours. i get up around 5am. Have THREE cups of coffee (i need more of a boost than you). I read at least two strong male authors and one strong female author. By “strong” I mean someone who has a very real autobiographical voice (fiction or non-fiction). Raymond Carver being a great example. Miranda July also, for me, being another great example. Why 2 male? Only because I’m male. But I like to balance a little. The reading takes about an hour. Then I walk over to the computer and write. I’d actually like to keep it down to 1000 words or less but often I exceed. I don’t think, for what I do, its so good to go beyond 1000 words (for blog posts) but I tend to get wordy. Or the stories are too big. i dont know.

  10. Robyn Says:

    @James — that’s smart to read before you write to get inspired. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂