Consistency in Routine: It's True What They Say

Monday, June 15, 2020
In June, I decided to post about consistency because it's a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately, as an editor, a writer, and a quality assurance manager at my day job. If you caught my previous posts, you know I talked a lot about consistency in your actual writing and provided some (hopefully) helpful tips to provide a manuscript that won't be full of errors or inconsistencies.

But today, I want to approach a more controversial topic and one that I think is timely given how 2020 has been full of change, disease, protests, racism, and uncertainty.

If you hope to make progress as a writer, whatever that means to you, you have to be consistent in how you approach your writing routine. 

That's sometimes an unpopular thing to say. A lot of creative people don't like to hear the words routine or schedule. They shudder at the mention of "discliplined." But when I talk to people who are stuck or have writer's block or can't finish any piece of writing they start, one thing most of them have in common is: there's no consistent routine to their writing.

Look, I get it. I do. It's hard to get up and write every morning. Or it's hard to write in the evening after the kids go to bed. Or it's hard to sit your butt in the chair and write in the mornings (if you are retired or a full-time writer). But if you're having trouble making progress, it could be because you're not consistent.

This post is not meant to scold you or make you say all kinds of bad things to yourself right now. We are in the middle of a year that is unprecdented in our lifetimes. I wanted to indie publish a ton of books this year. One of them that I worked consistently on every day for four months was a book about how to do school visits. Enter the pandemic. Enter sheltering-in-place and distance learning. Enter a school year that won't look the same until a vaccine is found and widely available. I have an entire manuscript and book cover almost ready to go that I'm not going to publish right now; and for a while, I let it throw me.

But a few weeks ago, I said to myself: You were consistently productive in the morning before COVID-19. You are getting up so early because you have a crazy puppy who wants to get up at sunrise (and that's before 5:30 am right now, folks). So before you start editing for someone else or planning your daughter's day or insert anything here, work on your own pieces.

And I so I did. That's what I'm doing from about 6:30 am to 8:00 am every day. I feel better. I am making progress. I am consistent.

More than anything, I hope you understand that if you're hard on yourself, if you're negative self-talking, or if you're not allowing yourself grace because you're upset about the violence, or you want to organize a protest, or you're at home with three kids who have had their entire summers canceled, I want you to first be kind to yourself. You will not accomplish anything, consistent or not, if you do not give yourself grace.

Then look at yourself realistically. Where can you be consistent with your writing career? Can you work in the mornings? Is there an hour during naptime? Can someone watch your kids two times a week? Are you a weekend novelist? Whatever works FOR YOU, find it and stick to it. You will make progress. Consistency equals progress toward a goal. It really does.

What does work for you? Have you found this to be true in your own life? Let us know!

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, writer, and editor living in St. Louis, MO, with her daughter and her dog. You can find out more about her at or take her next online novel writing course which starts on July 3 by clicking here


Sioux Roslawski said...

Forgive me, Margo, because I've been a slacker. It's been a long time since I've been consistent.

I feel like I just went to a confessional and unloaded. You won't tell me to do a bunch of "Hail Marys." Instead, you'll tell me what I already know.

I DO get up early enough that I COULD do some writing. Instead, I read posts and check email. Should I use my time more wisely? Yes. Will I start? We'll see.

To be completely honest, there are mornings (or evenings) when I do write. However, it's making progress on shorter pieces. Chicken Soup pieces. Pieces that will be examples to use in my classroom. Contest pieces. But, while I'm working on those shorter pieces, I'm not making any progress on revising (or drafting longer pieces). I'm not sending out queries. I'm not submitting.

I've heard it reported that you have to do something 140 times before it becomes a habit. (Is that the right number?) I guess I need to start. ;) Thanks for the nudge/prod/insertion of the electric cattle prod up my rear end...

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, Margo, for giving consistency a shout out! I think that word's had a lot of bad press since Emerson badmouthed consistency as the hobgoblin of little minds.

Consistency IS a powerful tool and it can be used for good--as you've done so brilliantly with your writing!--or not so good, as when we come up against those who don't want to change because "we've always done it that way."

And by "those", I think I have to include me.

Uh-oh. Change is hard, Margo. :-) (Also love what you had to say about grace for ourselves. Why are we always so willing to give a bit of grace to others and not to ourselves? *sigh*)

Margo Dill said...

Hi Sioux:
I would consider what you are doing--writing. I know I've said on here before that I did almost zero creative writing for three years or so during/after my divorce. But I wrote blog posts for here and on my blog. I wrote newsletters. I taught writing classes. And I stayed in the game until my brain was ready for creativity or big projects. I think we all go through these seasons. I've heard Angela say things about that now--she is writing a lot of smaller pieces and having success while she mulls over her memoir. It's all writing. It all builds!

Margo Dill said...

Hi Cathy:
I need to practice what I preach on the grace thing. :) I don't think of consistency as the bad guy. What is the bad guy is resistance to change disguised as "we are just being consistent." We humans are excellent at fooling ourselves.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

You mean we shouldn't just swoon until a Muse shows up?

So much truth in your post. It is so easy to find excuses not to write/query/whatever. Me? I need to quit with the excuses and start making some new progress.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top