Wednesday, October 20, 2021

GROG Roundtable: Routines and Cues to Keep You Writing Consistently with Facilitator Kathy Halsey

Fall photo
by Author Chris Mihaly

We're on the final quarter of 2021 and the GROG team is circling back to goals to keep us writing in a season full of festivities. To make writing a consistent habit, it helps to have cues or prompts. We don't think about true habits - you brush your teeth every day, or may have coffee at the same time each morning. Generally, we have a cue that says "time to brush your teeth."

Today we'll share our tips on how writing becomes a TRUE habit. (Something we DO automatically!) Mark your calendars for Wednesday, November 10 for Part 2: Revision Routines and Cues.

Sue uses an assignment sheet as a visual cue

Kathy Halsey: 
Deadlines are my cues. They are self-imposed. I know to write a haiku every Saturday for #haikusaturday. I know I have a critique group  every Friday, so if I want feedback,  I need it done then. I also call a set of months by a theme, like Summer of Revision, Season of Submission. My focus for theme months is to make that theme my North Star. All other writing work comes after that.

Christy Mihaly: 

I've found that it's easier to get into the routine when I have a designated writing area. My designated area changes with the seasons (by the fire in winter, on the porch in summer), but once I set up my books, lists, computer, and notebooks, entering my writing area makes me feel compelled to write! 

For me the difficulty is making sure I spend enough time writing new work, in addition to the time spent critiquing, promoting, and keeping up with social media. For that, I agree with Kathy, deadlines can be magical.

Carol Coven Grannick:

For me, a habit comes from a decision, and then practice (which includes failure, then restarting). Although writing virtually every day has happened for years as I carry paper and pen or pencil with me, I established an early morning writing routine long ago. It took hold powerfully when I had a full time job that began at 7-ish, close to home. I wrote from 4:30-6 am—either work on a project, revision, or scribbles to keep my brain/hand memory functioning. 

I’d been an early riser for many years, but those seven years before I “retired” from a day job set the habit in stone. And I continue the habit of writing ideas, thoughts, phrases, poems down as they pop into my brain.

Sue Heavenrich:
I use Morning Pages (thanks Julia Cameron!) as a way to kick off my daily writing - even when I don’t feel like writing. I sit with coffee and scribble anything from lists to responding to a prompt to working through a section of an article or book I’m working on. Other tools include an “assignment sheet” on a clipboard that I hang next to my desk, a bullet-journal where I break down monthly projects into do-able pieces, and a daily list of what I hope to accomplish that day. It might be one item: revise a picture book, or it might be 2 or 3 smaller things, such as outlining my next science column, or building a word bank for a story, or even searching for an answer to a friend’s question about woolly bears - a question ended up becoming a blog post over at Archimedes Notebook.

Suzy Leopold:  

Setting SMART Goals supports my writing. These goals are:

specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. 
Creating a set of short-term and long-term goals helps 

me to stay
focused, organized, and gives me a clear sense 
of direction with writing projects. After a goal is achieved, 
I often revise and adjust a set of SMART Goals for further 

I picked these flowers for you!
Goal Setting

Julie Phend

Every morning, I begin the day by writing down 3 things I am grateful for and 3 things I want to accomplish that day. Starting with gratitude puts me in a positive frame of mind, and setting only 3 goals ensures that I meet them. I make them very specific: Write Chapter X, or Revise next 3 chapters, or Query X. I set timers for each task, ensuring that I don’t get hung up or spend too much time on the easier tasks. When the timer rings, I can choose whether to spend more time on that task or not.

Thank you, Julie, for adding a note to include gratitude in our habits. Doing our work gladly with our readers in mind, makes our cues and routines easier.

Readers, share the cues and routines you have already have that might work others in the comments.


  1. Great tips! Thank you Kathy and all for sharing your routines and cues for tackling BIC moves. I keep a list of things I want to accomplish for the day. I don't always get to them, but I try.

  2. Wonderful tips here! I have a weekly list and then choose from that daily based on deadlines (both self-imposed and others). I usually have to transfer a lot of what's on my weekly list to the next week. :) Thanks for a great post!

  3. Deadlines are my kick-in-the-pants too, Kathy!☺️

    1. Glad to see your motivation, Jarm. TY for reading this.

  4. Great ideas, ladies! So many devoted early morning writers - fun to picture you all pen in hand. I especially love the gratitude mini-list Julie mentioned before diving into her varied projects for the day. I usually plan my list the night before so that I am ready to begin without much thought the next morning. (My travel schedule prevented me from chiming in for this piece ...) Nicely done!

    1. Eileen, yes, that gratitude piece really resonated with me.

  5. These are great ideas! It's always nice to hear how others magian their time, get themselves doing the work, and using new ideas to help. Thank you :)

    1. Hope we gave you something new to try, Erik. Keep that creativity going.

  6. Thank you for sharing your encouragement and maintaining the ability to keep going throughtout any situation.