How to Write Like a… Squirrel!

One question that is often asked of authors is “what is your writing routine?” Back when I had a full-time job and an elderly mother living with me, I would get up at 4 am, work steadily for 90 minutes, then get breakfast for us at 6 am and off to work at 7 am. Surprisingly, several books came out of that routine.

However, with retirement came marketing and volunteering, consequently, my routine faltered. Now, it’s sit down for a few minutes (like now), then up to do a chore. Back down, but I need to answer business emails. Up to check book stocks, then it’s bedtime. You get the idea. My writing time is not what you would call disciplined.

Six Words, No Motivation

At the January meeting of the Tucson Sisters of Crime, we discussed motivational techniques and how to get yourself in the chair to write. Some authors have a routine of writing for 4 hours every morning. Of course, the writing session doesn’t have to be in the morning, it can be at night. Whatever the time, the writer needs to feel the most creative and focused.

One focus exercise we did was to write a 6-word description of our current writing style. This exercise was based on the 6-word story challenge. The famous example given for the 6-word story is the one created by Ernest Hemingway: “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Very effective.

I summed up my current writing style as: Focus, Choose topic, Fingers down. Squirrel!

One person didn’t understand the significance of “Squirrel.” And no, I am not referring to my recently published book, Squirrels of the Sonoran Desert. If you’ve watched comic skits about dogs, they are focused on their task until a squirrel goes by, then all the dog can think about is chasing the squirrel. It means a loss of attention to what I was doing. Which sums up my writing routine.

Switching Up the Routine

When I first started writing books, I would get up and write with purpose. These days my writing sessions are much more sporadic, as I’ve mentioned. I get up, usually, a little later than 4 am, although 5 am is normal in the summer. Now, I have a dog to let out, then walk. I have to feed the reptiles, visit the horses, do marketing, fill out governmental documents, prepare for talks, help organize conferences, and teach an afternoon class. I am not sitting in my chair with my fingers on the keyboard, filling the laptop screen with words.

I particularly enjoy researching information for new books, searching the Internet, one interesting fact leading to another. The words based on what I’ve found come much harder. Very rarely do the words “flow.” I often have to fight for each one. 

Due to my preference for the book business, taking every precious minute for writing, my housework and decluttering occur very rarely. However, recently I had a television crew come to interview me and do the recording in my house. Terror! Of course, they wanted to videotape the reptiles, so the house had to be at least somewhat presentable. Clutter was confined into boxes, hidden away in already cluttered rooms. How I wish I had Samantha’s ( I’m referring to the Bewitched TV show character) ability to twitch my nose, and magically have everything sorted and put away. I vow I will find a minute here and there to deal with the boxes. But you know the truth. I’ll be at my laptop, focusing, choosing a topic and applying pressure to the keys… Squirrel!

P. S. I’ll let you know when my TV interview airs.


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