Tools and Tips,  Writing

creating a writing ritual

So we’ve covered the importance of establishing a writing schedule for achieving your writing goals, but I want to expand and look at the importance of writing rituals. You can consider schedules and rituals two sides of the same coin, but they do differ, and it’s important to grasp the distinction in order to make the best use of these tools. While schedules set aside time in your day for writing, rituals establish the conditions under which your body and mind expect writing to occur.

Let me explain.

Alright, so you know when to write because you have a neat and awesome schedule, which you stick to perfectly every day, of course. Let’s say you prefer to write in the mornings, when it’s barely light outside and everyone in your house is still snoozing. But let’s say every morning you approach the computer a little tired, a little timid. You check your email and social media accounts and organize your calendar for half an hour until you have to face the music (or the cursor, in this case) and write. Unconsciously, you’ve already established a ritual, and one that is doing you no favors.

But what if, instead, you were to rise, start a pot of coffee to wake yourself, pop on your preferred writing music for atmosphere, and agree to write one complete sentence, if nothing else? Would you come to your writing sessions more confident and focused? Would you make more progress in shorter spans of time? Probably, and it’s because if you repeat those steps enough mornings in a row, you’ll trick your brain into equating certain actions and sensations with your reserved writing time. It’s simple math, people: coffee+music+computer=words. But let’s go ahead and tailor that equation to your needs.

Stick To Your Schedule

Sure, this isn’t always going to happen. Life comes up and kids get sick and duty calls, but try your very, very best to stick to your preferred writing schedule. If you know what time of day works for you, some part of the day when you have the time and when you actually enjoy writing, great. If you don’t, spend a few days figuring it out and then try to write at that time every single day.

Let’s think about our imbedded circadian rhythms, shall we? At a certain point in the day, our bodies begin to wind down for sleep, depending on how normalized and consistent our sleep is. If we perform the same sleep-inducing habits and go to bed around the same time every night, our bodies will intuitively prepare for sleep as well, making for more restful and easily-acquired sleep. When our schedules are hectic and our sleeping patterns scattered, it is usually harder to fall asleep and the quality suffers.

You want that same kind of internal instinct associated with your writing, and a good way to access it is to write at the same time every day. It won’t always make your writing beautiful and eloquent, but it will make the start to the process easier, as it engages your writing brain before you’ve even written a word.

Involve Your Senses

We all know how inspirational the right music can be for your writing sessions. An ambient playlist, like a video game or film soundtrack, can help keep you focused and progressing, while songs that perfectly capture a difficult scene can bring fresh words and images to your writing. If you’ve found you prefer silence, then by all means, write in silence. But I’m going to give you something else to consider: have you ever given a thought to the smells your surround yourself with while you write?

Weird, I know, but think about it. Since smell, more than any of the senses, is closely related to memory, it makes sense (pun absolutely intended) that diffusing a particular scent around your work time would conjure your writer’s instinct. If you learn to associate the smell of coffee or ginger tea or lemon essential oil with successful sessions and proud moments of accomplished writing, that same smell can get you into your creative groove the second you sit down to write.

Start Small

The most comforting aspect of my writing ritual is telling myself at the start of each session that I only need to write fifty words. If, after fifty words, I’m not feeling it, I can’t figure out this scene, I can’t find the words, then I’m allowed to give up for the day. But let me tell you: I’ve never given up for the day.

Fifty words is the perfect amount because it’s not daunting, but it’s enough to get me warmed and wrapped up in my work. By fifty words, I’m on a roll and enjoying myself enough that if I hit a snag, I actually want to tease it out instead of dreading having to work through a difficult moment. Nonetheless, allowing myself the luxury of walking away after fifty words eases the pressure of the process and makes writing fun rather than painful work. And while fun doesn’t mean perfect, is does mean I’ll return to the writer’s desk again and again, and that’s worth more than perfection any day.

/// E.S.T.

NOW TELL ME // Do you have a writing ritual? What are some things you’ve incorporated in your daily sessions to make writing easy and instinctive? Tell me below!

photo by: rawpixel

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