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With many bestsellers under his belt, most of which have been adapted for film, TV, and even comics, it’s nearly impossible to find a person with access to the internet who doesn’t know who Stephen King is—or at the very least, have heard of him. King has 76 published books: 64 novels, 7 of which are written under his second pen name, Richard Bachman, with the addition of 5 non-fiction books. And it doesn’t stop there! He also has 200 short stories.
Now even for someone who has been active since 1967, that’s a lot of books and thousands of words. It can make anyone wonder: how does he manage to write so much?
Aside from writing every day, holidays and his birthday included, it’s no surprise that just like many other renowned writers, what helps King is following a daily routine that eases him into writing mode. In his own words: “The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.” And it works, at least for him, just based on his output alone.
So what can we emulate from Stephen King’s daily ritual? Let’s discover how parts of his routine can work for our own creative endeavors!
King is known to compare what he does before and while he’s writing to his pre-sleep activities. Whenever he sits down for his writing ritual, which is anywhere between 8:00 and 8:30 in the morning, he either has a glass of water or a cup of tea. He then takes his vitamin pill and listens to music. He also sits in the same seat with all of his papers sorted and arranged in the same places.
“It’s not any different than a bedtime routine. Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.” (From the Daily Routine website.)
With that comparison in mind, think of your own daily rituals, even if it’s not related to bedtime. The activities and tasks that make up our routines, now habits that we don’t even think about before doing, are so entrenched in us that we hardly notice doing the exact same thing, mostly in the same exact order, each day. This series of habits that form a routine provide a predictable structure that makes navigating our day easier: it eliminates the unnecessary need to make decisions—which can take up time and cognitive energy—and prepares us to do things that we consider important.
But what does this have to do with creativity?
According to research, having a routine can support cognitive function. In one particular study, “having regular work processes allows workers to spend less cognitive energy on recurring tasks, which can support focus and creativity for more complex tasks.” There were similar findings in this review of influential artists and their daily rituals. Simply put, what routines do is pretty simple whether we’re trying to complete tasks for work or trying to get some writing done:
It takes away the stress and pressure of making decisions over mundane things and allows us to focus and do what needs doing.
One other way to lessen the stress of the day is by planning ahead—with the use of our Planner Refill! With 6 monthly spreads and 26 weekly spreads, all customizable with only the days of the week filled in, take control of your days by managing your schedule so you have more time to complete creative things!
According to King: “If you want to be a writer, you really only have to do two things: you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot.”
Aside from being a prolific reader himself, it’s fairly obvious that King practices what he preaches just based on the amount of books he’s published and the fact that he still follows his writing routine during holidays and his birthday. This is not to say we should do the same: each one of us has our own priorities. Writing, journaling, or any other creative pursuit might be important in our lives but not at the top of our list. But the takeaway, in King’s own words from his memoir, On Writing, is this:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.”
This applies to nearly everything else that we’re striving to be good at or want to accomplish. If you ever want to improve or finish something, it’s vital to give yourself time to practice or do it daily—even every day, if you must. It’s a matter of training the brain: all habits are formed through repetition, but there’s nothing to repeat if there’s nothing being done. We’ve all heard the excuse, I don’t have time. But the truth is, a lot of us do. Often, what we don’t have is the discipline and the tools needed to manage the time we do have—but just like everything else, it’s something that can be practiced!
If you’re struggling with making a new habit like writing stick, try a habit tracker (and here are 4 reasons why you should). If you’re the type to procrastinate, we’ve got something for that right here. Prone to distractions or having difficulty with focus? You’re in the right place: visit this article.
No more excuses. If we want to get something done, it’s time we do it no matter what.
With a routine in place that he follows on the daily, regardless of what day it is, one other thing that King does is to make sure he writes up to 2,000 words a day. TheDaily Rituals book that explores “how artists and writers organize their days” mentions that King doesn’t quit until he meets his quota.
But you may ask: doesn’t that constrain his creativity? Just like routines can help with creativity, having an end goal in mind during your writing session can provide you with the road you need to take to accomplish it.
Writing your goals down and either “vividly” describing or picturing them can already increase your chance of successfully accomplishing them by 1.2 to 1.4 times. So as you build your writing routine, decide on a daily, achievable goal and write it down. If you want to be as detailed as possible, do it the SMART way: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
Of course there’s still a lot of doing involved to make things happen before you get to your goal, but with a clear path ahead of you and something to work towards, the execution will be so much easier.
Whether you read Stephen King’s works or not, there’s no denying that the daily routine he follows is effective—and it can be for us, too. We may not agree with everything he does, like writing during the holidays or doing it in the same place each and every time, but many aspects of his writing ritual are similar to other creatives who are as successful as he is. They’re definitely worth trying out.
What routine do you follow when you’re about to do something creative? We’d love to hear your own daily ritual! Share it with us and the community below!