By Annabel Hertz - Author of "Seeing Green"
Obsessed With Progress - Featured Guest!
When I started writing fiction, I attended writer’s conferences—and the wisdom most consistently offered by the successful was, “you must establish a routine,” and “every writer works differently.” I would nod and think: wow, that sounds sort of contradictory!
Still, I attempted to rise every day and write, as many authors claimed to do. But with my circadian rhythm, I found myself groggy and unfocused, and not necessarily inspired first thing in the morning—unless I’d had a vivid dream: strong coffee only made me want to jog somewhere. Eventually, I gave up, and then did away with the whole idea of writing at a set time, in a set place. But I did not give up on writing a novel.
If you can relate, you too may be the type who has never been fond of, or even good at, routine (not to be confused with the ever-fabulous habits and rituals of course). Maybe you even secretly shun it. Let’s be honest here: predictability can be a real buzzkill! As Amos Bronson Alcott (Louisa May’s father) once said, “the less routine, the more life.” Afterall, we didn’t choose to write in order to conform, so why should we conform in order to write?
Yet, you’re probably also a goal-getter. So, how on earth do we manage? In my case, my sights were set on finishing a book, and I had even quit my job to make that happen (knowing that with that kind of fire under me, I’d take the task rather seriously). Thus, I continued on, recklessly unstructured and haunted by the words of the already published until writing became a habit that—several years later—ended up in a completed story. My mantra and metric was: I’ll write every day (or at least most) until it’s done (i.e. as soon as humanly possible) and before my savings runs out. (Note: The last bit was always the kicker—into action. Thus if all else fails, make your financial solvency dependent upon your progress).
To break the routine of writing, I wrote in various locations throughout the day—choosing different neighborhoods, cafes, friend’s homes and offices, libraries, and parks—often at a moment’s notice to surprise myself. (Perhaps I was extreme, and fortunate—living in four cities/three parts of the world over the course of my book.) New surroundings made life seem less static, brought fresh perspective, kept me in motion. Figuratively and literally, I was finally going somewhere! A change in scenery added liveliness to my characters and subplots (or so I imagined), giving me an incentive to continually get back to them.
[Even more critically, this vagabond approach to productivity ensured at least some interaction with, and therefore connection to, humanity. If you can relate, you too may be an extrovert. And let’s be honest again here: isolation is an even bigger buzzkill than predictability! For extroverts, staying in touch with the living is as critical as staying in touch with the writing.]
Of course, not having a routine requires work (including a lot of laptop packing, shlepping, and unpacking). As the singer Tori Amos has noted, “When we get in a routine, we can become zombie-like and shut down. It's about discipline. You have to push yourself. There are ways to stimulate being prolific, and part of that is...changing up the routine.”
As writers, we simply cannot afford to have our creative flow interrupted by routine. Many of us want our days—like the final chapters in our book—to remain somewhat uncertain until they are written and lived. At times, the adventure of writing is stifled by our daily writing existence. It’s an occupational hazard that deserves as much attention as copyediting.
If this is you, you are far from alone, and you need not fret or feel guilty. Plenty of us have tried to maintain a routine and failed. The experts were right: every writer is different. So long as we, as individuals and collectively, figure out how to motivate ourselves to get where we want to go—that is what matters.
About Annabel Hertz
‘SEEING GREEN’ A HUMOROUS JAUNT INTO D.C. POLICITCS, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
Review on Huffington Post calls Annabel Hertz’s new book: energetic, witty and timely
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Drawing on clever social commentary and her own experience in the political realm, author Annabel Hertz will get readers “Seeing Green” in no time.
Her new book “Seeing Green” (April 15, 2014) steps into the world of cutthroat politics and environmental policy as seen through the eyes of a young multicultural woman whose personal life seems to parallel her professional life as an activist on the frontlines of Washington D.C. in the ’90s. Never afraid to articulate her personal convictions, Hertz’s modern day heroine is strong and profound, yet humorous and relatable.
“Seeing Green” is Hertz’s first endeavor in historical fiction, reviewed on The Huffington Post as “timely, energetic and witty.”
Much like the protagonist she introduces in “Seeing Green,” Hertz has delved into the world of politics with organizations involved in international relations and sustainable development. More recently, she served as a policy consultant, adjunct professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and Global Governance Fellow at the World Economic Forum.
“Seeing Green” is Hertz’s debut novel. She holds master’s degrees from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and San Francisco State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree from the University of California where she studied politics. Hertz is currently pursuing a doctorate in international relations at American University in Washington D.C.