I first heard about this guy on a podcast followed by a mention in another book I was reading that time. As you can tell, I was intrigued right away. I dug a little further and realised that Anthony Trollope just might have invented the concepts of having a side-hustle and the morning routine.
Trollope used to balance his writing with a day job at the Postal Services. His work consists of 50 novels — all of which he wrote while working full-time with the postal services! His strategy was straightforward — wake up at around 5 in the morning and write from 5:30 to 8:30, with a watch in front of him. Some sources say that he used to clock in a thousand words per hour. Phew!
That might not be a lot by your standards but let me put this in perspective — Trollope showed up every-single-day to log at least 3,000 words. And if he happened to finish a novel before the end of a writing session, he wouldn’t take time off or rest but would dig right into his next book!
Trollope’s process may not be as appealing as all the writing and time-management hacks we’re surrounded with, but it gets the work done. Remember, you can always take the time to edit and beautify your draft later. But you can only do that _if_ you have something written in the first place.
I recently heard Jocko Willink label his writing process as “mechanical.” He shows up and writes his ideas down. That’s it. He doesn’t about ‘flow,’ ‘creativity,’ or the right ‘routine.’ Get it done and move on.
If you’ve been struggling to write due to inspiration, motivation, or the right environment, let me invite you to trail out the mechanical approach to writing. It only requires you to show up and start. And I like William Faulker’s view on writing, “I only write when I’m inspired. Fortunately, I’m inspired at 9’o clock every morning.”
We know what he’s trying to say, don’t we? Amateurs wait for the right moment or motivation or the muse to inspire them before they start writing. Professionals treat their craft as a job where they put in the time (usually the same time) every day. No exceptions. They would write when they’re motivated. They would write when they aren’t. They would write when it’s the first thing on their mind. They would write when it’s the last thing on their mind.
You may want to argue that this workman-like approach doesn’t work if you’re a creative writer. Or at least in these days of distraction. Maybe. But what do you have to show for your “trademarked” approach to writing? If the answer is somewhere between nothing and something, well, it’s time to evaluate your process.
Also, try to think of this approach as training for your mind. That’s what elite athletes do — they train for weeks, months, and even years to perform their best at an event, let’s say the Olympics. And let me tell you, the Olympic event won’t happen at 6 am because most athletes train at that time. It can happen anytime. So, the athletes have been preparing to perform their best and on-demand.
If an athlete cannot do that, they usually don’t make it to the team. Ditto for writers who have the talent and potential but can’t deliver the work when asked to because they “don’t feel like it” or aren’t feeling inspired. Ask any copywriter or journalist what it takes them to write every day when the situation demands, and their answer will be unanimous — they’ve been trained to write on-demand.
A creative writer’s approach shouldn’t be any different. They should train themselves to write every day or perhaps, every other day if that’s more convenient or a schedule that works for their lifestyle. The important thing is to show up consistently and get the work done.
Of course, the alternative is to rave about other people who’re getting the work done while you’re still waiting for the muse to give you a visit.
P.S. I realised that I’ve been writing a lot about writing and creativity lately. It’s not deliberate, but it sure is on top of my mind these days. We will be back with our “regular programming” (LOL) shortly…