Writing rituals? No, I’m not suggesting you sacrifice a chicken to the voodoo gods! Writing rituals are the little things you do to start off your writing sessions or just before, that help you get relaxed and in the mood for writing.
When we first learned to write, we didn’t need writing rituals. Our voluntary writing was triggered by impulse. Teacher had us write our own sentences at school and it was so much fun we wrote a few at home as well. We learned about keeping diaries and we bought a diary or notebook and wrote in it for a whole week before giving it up and doing something else.
But once we started to think of ourselves as writers, we had to develop writing habits that let us write even when we didn’t have the impulse. We had to in effect give ourselves the writing impulse. And that is where writing rituals come in.
One kind of writing ritual involves reading a bit of something. A few well-known writers were known to read some good poetry before beginning their writing sessions. Some people might read the Bible or a devotional book, or an inspiring how-to-write book, or a few pages of a novel by an author we would like to learn from.
Another ritual involves consuming something. We make a cup of coffee or tea, or perhaps a lowcarb hot chocolate, and we sit down to write. Before long, making and consuming that drink trigger our having an impulse to sit down and write.
A warning here: if your writing ritual involves chugging down mass quantities of sugary soda, you may wish to transition to something that is less likely to cause health problems. You don’t want your writing ritual to be derailed when you develop T2 diabetes and have to give up the sugary sodas!
Another type of writing ritual involves listening to something. They may listen to popular music— and continue listening to that same music until it becomes ‘oldies.’ They may listen to classical or movie soundtracks. In my case I listen to polka music or international folk music. I like it with a peppy beat that makes me type faster.
Another part of a writing ritual might involve removing potential distractions. I usually put my cat Eleanor out on the porch when writing, because she tends to be pesty. Kitten Jon will end up in a big cat cage during the writing sessions if he jumps on my writing desk. Writers with children shut the door and have trained the children not to come in unless the house is on fire.
Writing rituals are individual to the writer. You may need to wear your lucky writer’s hat or writer’s underpants. You may need to drink your tea out of your Captain Kirk mug. You may be listening to a podcast or a sermon while you write. Or maybe listening to anything with spoken words would kill your writing session.
It actually doesn’t matter what your writing rituals are, exactly. They exist to put you in a writing mood and trigger that writing impulse. You may find, when the cat breaks your Captain Kirk mug, that your Mr. Spock mug serves the purpose equally well. Or any mug that is currently clean enough to use.
Your writing rituals may change over time. The writer who can only write with loud music playing may become a writer who prefers quiet. When your computer breaks down you may find you can do a writing session perfectly well writing by hand. It’s actually better to try to be a little flexible about your writing. The main good thing about your writing rituals is when they create the mindset for actual writing to happen.
Do you have a writing ritual? What is it? Has it changed over time? Is it an important part of you sticking to a regular writing habit?
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