Okay, there is a lot to unpack here. Let's take it step by step:
One of the main problems with computers is that it is difficult to achieve a flow of writing.
First, I'd like to signal that this statement is projection. Many composers (including myself) work best / fastest with computers. I find writing by hand to be tedious because when I write, I know what I want, to transferring from manuscript to computer becomes a giant waste of time for me.
The truth is that a computer is no different of a tool than paper/pencil/piano. The difficulty in writing flow comes from your brain. Your brain needs tools here, not your hands. That said, if you love writing with paper, then awesome, do that. You should work in a way that is most comfortable / fluid for you.
How do I develop a workflow around composing by hand?
Composing "by hand" is incidental. The workflow starts in your brain. You merely prefer to use paper to externalize your ideas, which is fine.
How do I prepare the planning phase?
By planning. By getting in there and doing some work. It sounds dumb, I know, but keep reading; I'll explain more below.
How do I get into the habit of composing every week?
Budget time in your schedule to do it. If you're normally on Facebook from 3-4p, use that time instead to write music. If you're really sucked into a project and you really love to do what you do, finding the time is easy because you always want to do it. If it's difficult for you, then something needs to change.
And what steps could I take to achieve a constant flow between ideas
This question is probably the most important one and the one composers grapple with the most. To improve ease between ideas and handwriting, you need to understand the creative process.
There's been a lot of research done on the creative process, especially stemming from around the turn of the century up through present day. Various theory have been popular over the years, but here is the one that makes most sense to me:
Essentially, there are three parts to the creative process:
- Ideation (Inspiration)
In other words, first, you need to have an idea. Second, you need to take the idea from your head and put it into the world somehow. Third, you then measure what you've done against the idea in your head. If it matches, you can move on. If it doesn't, then you revise. A given individual's ability to sensitively perceive and revise differences between these two images we call skill/knowledge/experience. The uncommonality of their original ideation we call "creativity".
This process is not linear, but cyclical. It should happen at local and macro levels throughout creating. Where people get tripped up is they don't/can't separate these processes. For example, judging before they've created anything (what we call "writer's block").
When you start phase 1, the only rule should be that there absolutely can't be any judgement. Some of the ideas will work and some will not, this is normal and part of creation. You should strive to create as much as possible.
The rate / ease at which you externalize your ideas depends on whether or not you are fluid in the medium. This just takes time and error (what we call "skill").
After you've externalized everything, then you measure: does it work? Why? Why not? What does it need? Then the whole process repeats.
You know you're done when one of two things happens:
- You run out of time before the deadline for the project
- You can't figure out how to get it any closer to what you have in your head (what I really mean by this is that your head can't figure out a way to make any part of the piece "better")
Here is one idea of a workflow, which I am looking for feedback on:
Set the intent. Form? Am I writing a sonata? (What key would be
suitable for this instrument? Etc.) Sketch ideas at piano. Gather
themes, chord sequences, canonic variations. Create an outline for
part A: melodic theme and bass. Finalize part A for up to 4 voices.
Proceed to part B and repeat procedure for additional parts. Proceed
to the second movement of the sonata.
This is okay and might work for one piece, but this approach might be total garbage for a different piece. There's a wonderful quote by someone I can't remember at the moment that goes something like "the only thing you ever figure out how to write is the thing you're on" meaning that every project takes you in new and different directions.