Writing

Start Your Week Off Write: How To Use Writing Rituals To Be More Productive


“Magdalena Fabius” by Georges de la Tour, 1628-1645, public domain

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

I have a few rituals in my life. Most are forced upon me by my cat Pinkerton. Cats are ritualistic. If you did something yesterday, cats expect you to do it today. Very simple. Open the curtains by 9 am. Fill my bowl as soon as you wake up. When I drop a toy mouse at your feet, you will toss it.

Writers have rituals, too. Many famous writers have had quirky rituals. Truman Capote wrote in bed. Victor Hugo wrote naked. Gertrude Stein wrote in a parked car. Steven King writes in the same chair with his papers placed in the same spot daily.

Famous Authors and their Writing Rituals 

When you hear the word ritual you might think of religious activities or rigid dogmatic rules. Some people may think rituals are superstitious or border on obsessive-compulsive. Writing rituals are a custom or practice that cues your brain that it’s time to tap into the artistic and creative side and start writing.

There are as many writing rituals as there are writers. Every writer can establish a writing ritual, no matter how busy you are.

Some people have literal writing rituals, where they write three pages of stream-of-consciousness, write a poem or do some type of writing prompt before their actual work-in-progress writing.

Some people’s rituals are religious in nature. Perhaps they pray, meditate, read a psalm, chant or sing a song of worship.

Some writers use relaxation techniques or traditional relaxation actions to invite the Muse in: a cup of hot tea, glass of wine, or a warm bath. Some need more stimulation to bring their minds and bodies to the alert state that works best for their creative activity: a good jolt of caffeine, brisk exercise, a cold shower, some head-banging rock music.

Others might use the techniques that a lot of athletes and competitors use, like wearing a certain piece of clothing, carrying a lucky penny or touching a certain item before they settle into writing mode. The key is finding what works for you and working it.

Be open to discovering what works for you. Don’t pass judgement on it. Just because no one else you know screams into a closet for 5 minutes before writing doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. Maybe it’s as simple as having a Star Wars figurine on your desk that becomes your writing mascot. Or you walk the dogs and then you write. Light a candle. Do some push-ups. Eat a square of your favorite chocolate. Or it’s a body position. Stand at the counter and write. Sit in the chair by the window. Lay in bed wrapped up in your sheets. Sit in the same booth at your favorite coffee shop. Place the same order. Open computer and begin. Place pen to paper and begin.

Doing the same thing the same way will train your brain to expect the same outcomes. Cue yourself to expect writing to happen and you give yourself the psychological freedom to make it happen.

How do you discover your writing rituals?

  1. Keep a journal or list of what you do as you feel yourself slip into ‘production’ mode.
  2. Pick a ritual or habit. Make it small and enjoyable.
  3. Link it to writing. Immediately after doing this ritual you write.

Doesn’t matter if you write for 5 minutes or 5 hours. Must be time to write. After a while you’ve programmed your brain to follow your habit. A writing ritual will help you focus and have more productive writing sessions. So simple a cat can do it. 😉

Need a little more motivation to start a writing ritual? Check out these links:

Do you have a writing ritual? Tell us about it. Maybe you want to start one. Declare it in the comments to begin the transformation.

Related posts:

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16 replies »

  1. First, I think it’s amazing that you picked that particular La Tour painting to accompany your post. I’ll have you know I had two characters discussing this very same La Tour in the writing I did last night, LOL. I think you’re secretly stalking me….

    Second, the rituals. I don’t have really any particular ritual. Every day I make myself do something that moves writing forward. Some nights that is a heavy word count, other nights it may be reading 50 pages of a research book. Always move forward is my mantra, which I suppose you can call a ritual. I prefer to think of it as economy of time.

    Some days when the writing is being difficult, I will stop and take a breather. I’ll generally pull out my notebooks and try and free write on the problem area for a while, and that can help clear out the blocks.

    But I also keep a corkboard full of inspirational quotes, pictures/characters that feel like they belong in a story of mine, and story sparks that I haven’t had time to tackle yet. Of course, my cat’s ritual is to chew on this corkboard on a daily basis when I’m not around to spritz her with the spray bottle for it, LOL.

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    • Did I forget to tell you? My writing ritual is to stalk you until you write, then I write. About you writing. LOL That is weird that we are both thinking about that LaTour painting in reference to writing. Maybe it should be involved in a writing ritual somehow.

      ‘Always move forward’ sound like a good ritual to me. I think the visuals that a writer keeps around his/her desk is definitely linked to ritual. If they weren’t there it would be a different writing experience, it would FEEL different somehow.

      I have the bulletin board that’s attached to the shelf part of my desk papered with the top blog posts that have influenced me in my writing, and I always read them when I’m getting ready to write something. I guess that is my writing ritual. I’d like to have a few more habits involving something good to drink and music, but I haven’t really thought it through to decide yet.

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      • hahaha, oh man, writing about me writing would be pretty boring. I’m so sorry…. 🙂 “and she shifts in her seat once again, failing to ignore the siren call of Twitter that lay open right behind Word…” I always think that any stalker or Big Brother entity who is watching me must be ready to gouge their eyes out from boredom, LOL!

        I do have to have something to drink, but that’s a constant whether I’m writing or not, so I don’t really think it’s a writing ritual. I am one of those writers who cannot listen to music when I write. My brain only allots so much attention for any one thing, and music and writing split it up too much, lol.

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  2. Very nice post. I wrote on Virtual Book Tour that my ritual is to go swimming before I write. I get the most creative ideas while doing laps in the pool in the early evening when no one else is about. Each stroke stretches my left arm where axial dissection took place while I stretch my imagination. xx

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  3. Thanks for stopping by, Jan. Swimming sounds like a great writing ritual. I think being able to move your body, sometimes without thinking about it, just using muscle memory, lets your creativity and imagination have an open spot to work. I’d like to incorporate yoga or tai chi into my day to help with that, but I have a hip injury that is acting naughty so I’ll have to wait a little bit. Wish I had a swimming pool. 😉

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  4. I put my left hand in, put my left hand out, put my left hand, then shake it all about. Perhaps I need to turn myself around, because I don’t have a ritual. Must be why I can’t seem to finish anything. Of course, after working 60 hours in a week, my mind is pretty much mush and piecing together cohesive thoughts sometimes takes every ounce of willpower I have.

    I have been getting better about writing more often. Stonewood is a great place (when there’s not an art exhibit or a couple of Cathy’s chatting it up) for me to find my groove. Prompts or cheesy word games take me out of my head and work mode and get me into the writing spirit.

    Thanks for the great post, Kristin! I will take your advice and start a ritual TONIGHT. I hereby announce that each evening, prior to my slumber, I will spend 30 minutes on writing. Maybe Squeaks will hold me accountable…

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  5. My writing ritual is simple. Wake up early while it’s still dark. For some reason, the darkness is important. If I ever “sleep in” as in it’s light outside I wake up with a loud declaration of “Oh s–t.” that scares my hubby. I have coffee with my dog on the couch, he cuddles, I drink the the coffee:) and then I wander into my office, turn on the little lights above my desk and begin. In the winter, I might light a candle just to be cool:)

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  6. I don’t have a ritual (I don’t think) but I do have a reward for writing…a handful of jelly beans from the candy machine by my desk. Although sometimes that calls for rewarding myself after only one sentence …. getting the right sentence can be difficult after all. Carolyn

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  7. You have given me something to think about, Kristen. Maybe that’s my problem. The only ritual I can think of that I always do is turning on the computer. Lately that hasn’t been working too good. Maybe I’ll start sticking my tongue out at the screen, or growling, or perhaps whining. I like Carolyn’s idea of getting a candy machine, but I’m afraid I’d end up with a morning ritual of needing to refill it.

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  8. I don’t know that I have “rituals” for writing, as much as I have “procedures”. What I mean by that is “getting Diet Coke right away” isn’t so much a writing ritual as it is a way to immediately get caffeine into my system to at least see the screen. I write fiction at least a half-hour first thing, not because I want to warm up that way creatively but because if I start my nonfiction work first then I end up “writing myself out” with nonfiction assignments and I never get any fiction written at all. Finally, I schedule everything because “if its on my calendar then it HAS to get done”. So, like I said, I’m tied more to procedures than to rituals.

    Great post, by the way.

    Joan

    leftbrainedwritebrained.wordpress.com

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