Writer in Residence

25 Writing Rules & Routines

By Sennah Yee

  1. I'm trying my best not to write about the moon, but it’s hard, isn’t it?
  2. Sometimes a poem just needs to be a diary entry. Sometimes a diary entry just needs to be a poem. Same goes for tweets.
  3. Try keeping a list of images and words to use later. Sometimes mine are so vague that I forget what I was thinking, but I trust that one day, they’ll come back to me, or I’ll come back to them, or we'll meet halfway. A sample: merry-go-round horses, shellac, ice gently melting in a cup overnight, moon roof.
  4. I mostly write when I’m feeling sad, obsessed, embarrassed, or all of the above. I mostly write joy by rooting it in all of the above.
  5. I write best when I should be sleeping.
  6. I sleep best when I should be writing.
  7. I have always been envious of people who drink coffee - I have no morning routine.
  8. I either write everything in a go or nothing at all. I have gone months and months without writing a single line. Mostly this brings me grief, but sometimes this brings me peace.
  9. Last month, I decided that every Sunday morning I would try to write with no distractions for 1 hour. I have succeeded twice.
  10. I treasure and accept nearly all edits.
  11. I wrote my first book of poetry with my first cat, Berkeley, asleep on my lap. He was so snoozy that he’d be dead weight, nearly sliding off of me, but he was so trusting that he knew I would never let him fall. His fur was so soft. I miss him every day.
  12. Try writing where you work, where you eat, where you sleep.
  13. I will always meet all deadlines aside from my own.
  14. I don’t write or read poems while thinking about how they sound like spoken out loud - but I’m trying to change this, because I want to. Sometimes I whisper lines to myself like a mantra.
  15. Let it sit for a bit.
  16. I can’t remember the last time I’ve written a poem by hand. I think something about this has to do with having to play Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing as a kid.
  17. I still get so nervous and excited before readings that I can barely eat or speak to anyone beforehand. During in-person readings, I’d have to pack emergency snacks (chocolate granola bars) and if possible, read first so that I could be fully present for the rest of the night. I find it easier to read to strangers as opposed to loved ones. I find it very hard to read off my phone.
  18. Try having multiple projects on the go, so you can procrastinate on one by working on the other.
  19. I switch genres between projects only because I find it hard to write in the same genre back-to-back without feeling like I’m copying myself. Copying myself is a big fear of mine, which I feel is both completely rational and irrational, possible and impossible.
  20. I don’t make outlines, but I maybe should. But I don’t want to.
  21. I don’t make word count goals, but I want to. And maybe should.
  22. I almost only write in first person. Sometimes in second person. But even then, you are me.
  23. Titles come later, mostly last.
  24. I find it helpful to start by writing the end.
  25. Try having no rules and no routines.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Sennah Yee is from Toronto, Ontario, where she writes poetry, short stories, and film criticism. Her first book, the creative nonfiction collection How Do I Look?, was published by Metatron Press in 2017. Her debut picture book, My Day with Gong Gong, was published by Annick Press in 2020.