Piedmont Laureate and lawyer Heather Bell Adams on her writing process

I’m often asked about my writing routine, so I thought I’d describe it and explain how it works for me.

Many writers have a favorite chair and a process that involves coffee or hot tea, perhaps meditation to get in the right mindset, maybe a cute checklist or a timer ticking away.

The truth? I don’t have a daily writing schedule or anything I would call a writing routine.

I’m a full-time lawyer and mom. My days can be pretty unpredictable. If I’m traveling for work or a golf tournament for my son, then I don’t have access to my desk or favorite chair.

Also, I can be a bit hard on myself. Even if I’m the one making up a “rule” and it’s not even a “real rule,” if I break it, then I will consider myself the Biggest Failure Ever, which can be counterproductive.

So, if I say, “I’m going to write 1,500 words per day, no matter what,” and then an emergency hearing pops up in one of my cases, I’m either (a) staying up half the night to get everything done, or (b) I’m a Complete Failure and might as well give up writing altogether.

From my perspective, I’ve learned by trial and error that it’s good to give myself grace, to be aspirational but not necessarily judgmental.

Know yourself, of course. If you’re a procrastinator who works best with a daily word count goal, by all means, go for it.

Here’s what works for me. I carry around a spiral notebook or my laptop and I jot down ideas or sentences or character sketches as they come to me. (Not if I’m driving. But otherwise throughout the day.) If I’m working on a novel-length project, I try to spend some time with it—whatever time I can reasonably accommodate—most days. That might mean tinkering with a paragraph or moving commas around. It might mean pounding out two thousand action-packed words (just kidding, I don’t really do action-packed…). Or staring into space as I try to figure out a character’s motivation (that, I do).

Oh, and I don’t drink coffee or tea. I’m weird that way.

I would love to hear about your writing process. And no matter what it is, I’m cheering you on.

Photo credit: J.B. Haygood Photography


Heather Bell Adams is the author of two novels, Maranatha Road (West Virginia University Press, 2017) and The Good Luck Stone (Haywire Books, 2020). Her work, which has been awarded the Doris Betts Fiction Prize, Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Award, Carrie McCray Literary Award, and James Still Fiction Prize, appears in the North Carolina Literary Review, Still: The Journal, Parentheses, The Thomas Wolfe Review, Atticus Review, The Petigru Review, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. Currently serving as North Carolina’s 2022 Piedmont Laureate, Heather lives in Raleigh, where she works as a lawyer. Learn more at http://heatherbelladams.com/.

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