The intoxicating scent of freshly sharpened pencils fills the room, and the sheen of still-glossy notebooks brightens the desk.

It’s back-to-school and back-to-routine time.

To help you transition from beach bum wannabe to creative writer extraordinaire, here is a Top Ten list of very do-able ways you can incorporate writing into each and every day.

1. Stake Your Claim – Every writer needs to have a place of their own – a quiet, private place where putting words on paper is the most important work. Take a walk through your house, apartment, or room. Is an extra bedroom, a messy corner in the basement, an underused counter-top just waiting for you?  With some elbow grease and a second hand table or desk, you can create your very own writing zone. No matter the size or aesthetics, claiming and creating this separate, creative space is important.

2. Choose – Make time for your writing. The time to choose to write is every night before your every next day of writing. The time to choose to write is not while guzzling a cup of coffee on your way out the door, kids and briefcase in tow.  It’s not while standing in line at the grocery store glancing at the covers of magazines or paperbacks and thinking, “Oh, I can write at least as well as that.”  Promote the work of writing to a status equal to that of taking out the trash or watching TV. No more than twenty-four hours in advance, make a mental commitment and physical entry in your day-planner to write the following day. 

3. Include Your Family – When you disappear into your writing zone instead of dropping onto the couch to watch TV, or when you emerge from the basement just as the kids stumble into the pre-dawn kitchen, certain questions might arise. Talk with your children, spouse, roommate – with anyone who will be impacted by this new routine – about this important part of your life. Let them know what’s going on so they have an opportunity to support you. Even if they are less than thrilled with your efforts, that’s OK. It’s possible that your commitment to express your own voice will inspire them to listen for theirs.

4. Say No – Really. It is the most magical of all words because this little two-letter word is the key that opens up a universe of three-letter word opportunities. For example, “NO, I’m sorry, but I cannot bake 17 dozen cookies for the PTA tonight,” translates into, “YES, I will spend a hectic enough evening with my darling kids and exemplary spouse before going to my writing zone to write another two pages of my novel before heading to bed.” Just remember that “No” is the new “Yes”.

5. B.I.C. or B.A.W. or Both – Just write. Butt In Chair. Be A Writer. If the blank page or screen blinds you and the first line scares you, skip it. Write the last line, or the middle, or make doodles out of random words and then link the odds and ends of doodled words into a sentence and go from there. Write.

6. Respect Your Goals – Decide how much writing will make you feel like you’ve actually “written” every day. If working on a project, figure out how much writing you need to do every day to complete that book or article or essay on time. Set a clear goal of two pages every night, or 3,000 words every morning before coffee. Be honest, realistic, and definite when setting these goals, and begin with small, manageable mini-goals. Every writer eventually learns what works best for them, so give yourself a little time to figure out if you’d prefer to set an alarm clock , or if you’d rather count characters, words , or pages.

7. Join a Writers’ Group – Writers are more often than not, and to varying degrees, introverts. The very nature of the work demands solitude, stillness and lots of internal rumblings. That’s one of the best – and worst – aspects of being a Writer. In order to share the delight of and to learn about the business of writing, it is vital to connect with other writers every so often. There are zillions of groups available to the creative sort: Online, in person; once a week or once a month; some require dues, others are free. Search online, call your local library or community center, and GO. Walk in the door or click on a link, and meet your fellow writers.  And if the first venture isn’t quite right for you, never fear. Writers are an odd enough assortment of folks that you will be sure to find the right fit for you and for your work after a little bit of looking.

8. Read Everything About Anything – As your story unfolds on the paper, who do you hear? What do you see? ? Usually the words originate in our heads; molded and formed by factors like eavesdropping while sipping coffee, or listening to the local news, or by … reading. Reading is nearly equal in importance to writing as far as those activities central to being a writer. At least once a week (on your way home, or before grabbing a burger, or even after the gym {and requisite shower}) head to your locally owned bookstore, stop by that second-hand place, and hang out at the public library with one goal in mind. Read. Don’t limit yourself to mysteries if you are a mystery writer, and take a break from newspapers if you are a journalist – walk into the literary jungles of romance, young adult, poetry and even song lyrics. Stomp around in the new terrain, discover fun and weird and brilliant ways to turn a phrase or manipulate a scene. Read anything about everything and learn.

9. Share your Work – Humans thrive with positive reinforcement. Look for ways to get that pat on the back for a goal met, or high praise for a word well used. Read your work to your kids, your friends, your dog.  Harsh and impossibly demanding expectations of many artists can swallow up the sincere compliments and happy cheers of supporters. While constructive criticism is an invaluable tool for every writer, it’s also necessary to listen to the good stuff.

10. Enjoy the Process – At a recent writers’ conference, guest speaker and author Hank Phillippi Ryan shared a bit of wisdom with our group of 300 writers. Enjoy this. Take time to celebrate every step in the process of writing. Open the champagne for the little and early and gigantic successes. Have some fun, and congratulate that writer within for a job well begun, continued or completed. And then go to your space and write some more.