Secret Ingredients of a Writing Ritual

My best days start with writing. It is my anchor for the day. I am much more focused, centered, and driven when I get my daily dose of story brewing.

One of the biggest complaints my clients have is that they don’t know how to get into their writing from one day to the next. After a little friendly interrogation, I learn that 9 times out of 10 it’s because they do not have any pre-writing habits, or even a routine.

As a modish gladiator, I find it difficult to switch gears from Life to Author. I don’t have much of a problem during my 4:00 a.m. writing session, but that is just one hour of the day—I need to invest more time on my fiction than that. But when I work on my fiction in the middle of the day, my to-do list hounds me. Housework and carpooling duty and my freelance biz and exercising all sap my creative energy. I have had to learn how to shut out those interferences so that I can fully tune into my fiction.

This is what I teach my clients–the best way to completely zone into your writing is through a writing ritual. The title to this post suggests my recipe is incredibly valuable–but in truth, the secrecy lies in knowing your writer self intimately. Too often, writers try to copycat the famous scribes, thinking their methods must be THE way to be a successful writer. I’m here to tell you that is never the case.

Every writer will have a different routine that works for them (because what works for me or JK Rowling won’t necessarily work for everyone else). While it’s helpful to learn how other writers get the job done, each one of us must modify that information to our own best use. Writers need to fill their own toolbox and build their own world. Trial and error, yes, but I think that’s the crux of a writer’s life anyway.

Below I offer suggestions to help you create your writing ritual. I want to reiterate these are basic, standard ingredients that writers need to carefully handle anyway, but you can turn any one of these into a habit to help you get in the writing zone.

GUARD your writing time and writing space. Guard ‘em like they are the crown jewels. If things slip through and knock you aside, well, you gotta own that. Why are you letting people interrupt? Why are you checking your email when you’re supposed to be revising? Why are you scheduling doctors’ appointments during your writing time?

  • Schedule. I’m a Time Nazi. I believe in the power of writing every day, but even beyond that, I believe in the power of writing at the same time every day. Choose a schedule that can be turned into a habit. Writing on a Tuesday, then on a Friday two weeks later, then at three in the afternoon when the kids are getting home from school and want food—that’s no good and can’t be turned into a healthy writing routine.
  • Habitat. And I do mean habitat. This is your very own place where your creativity should grow and thrive. This needs to be a healthy, comfortable, productive, safe place for you to work. 

SET the mood. What gets you in the mood to write? We all know what it takes to get in the mood for a romantic getaway or a tropical vacation or holidays with the family—there are certain things we have to do (or not do) to help us gear up and dive in, all in.

For me, I need a tasty beverage, soft music, fuzzy socks, and at least a whole uninterrupted hour to work. I also have to spend 15 minutes talking to myself before I begin writing a single word. I walk around my house in my fuzzy socks, talking out loud about my story goal for the day. Yes, I talk to myself, but I’m a writer, so it’s in the genes. Some writers have journals. I have a dual personality.

ESTABLISH writing goals. Some writers pray for a productive writing session. I guess my religion is goal-setting. I don’t think a ritual is much good if you aren’t aiming for something substantial. We can light candles, read inspirational words from our fave authors, or meditate, but if we don’t know what we’re aiming for each time we work, then no amount of self-reflection is going to get that book written. It could be 500 words a day, flesh out your secondary cast of characters, or research where unicorns really galloped off to—it doesn’t matter as long as it moves you forward.

If you’re finding yourself wandering down one too many rabbit trails lately, take a look at what you do before you get to work—do you have a healthy, writing-focused routine? See if you can organize 30-60 minutes before you write into a sequence of habits that will motivate and stimulate your creative energies.

Do you have a writing ritual? Any secret ingredients you want to share?

Have a writerly day!

 

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25 thoughts on “Secret Ingredients of a Writing Ritual

    • Hey Andrea!

      Oh yes, running or any kind of physical exercise is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. I think it would also help to sit for a longer period of time because you’d gotten all that physical energy out. Stinky or not, that’s a great writing warm-up! Thanks so much for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your advice seems sound to me. I’m big on planning [anything] with a specific end in mind, so I agree with you that a ritual needs a goal. Even if you don’t achieve it, you’re heading in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have so much a ritual as I do a daily goal I want to reach–usually at least a scene a day. If I haven’t written it by evening, then I miss out on some relaxation time until I get it done. Usually. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me. 🙂

    Great article, Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carrie, I understand the lack of mojo. Those are tough days, and I found it’s better to not force the writing. When I do that, I end up daydreaming about it or knocking it around in my head, which is just as good as the actual writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really have a writing ritual but your post makes me want to start one. I do always wear fuzzy socks though. This is great advice – it definitely helps to have a goal or word count in mind before sitting down to write. One of my problems is that the office has also become a storage room and it’s full of clutter. Your post makes me want to clean it all out before starting the next book (or maybe just short stories for a while).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure there are plenty of happy, satisfied authors out there who have no rituals! And fuzzy socks should really be a job requirement. 🙂 I suffer the same problem with my office–I use it as my Life office too. So, my writing research is mixed in with the electricity bill and kids’ school schedules!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have Scrivener set to a 300-word count for each session. I don’t always reach it, but sometimes I exceed it. I’m working on ways to improve the quality of writing time—I need to stay off the Internet while I’m writing. It’s too easy for those “but it’s to do research” excuses to spill over into wasted time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, the Internet Demon. Yes–especially when we need to do research. It’s way too easy to keep trolling for “just one more piece of information” and before you know it, your writing hour is up. Because I believe that each draft should sit and get cold before you begin a rewrite, I have been somewhat successful at turning that into research time. I collect notes from my previous draft into a separate document, then begin my research, so that I have the answers I need before I begin my next draft.

      That’s a handy feature of Scrivener; that way you don’t have to keep checking your word count as you write.

      Like

  5. Great post Kate. I have to write first thing in the morning or I get sidetracked once on the computer (I don’t write on the computer). Before I know it, a good part of the day is gone with chores, blog writing, social media and various interruptions, so the morning is my ritual. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Kate! I, too, am a fan of goals and rituals.

    Exercise in the morning gets my blood flowing and my mind working, and I usually toss over in my head the last few lines of dialogue or plot I wrote the day before, and work from there. Mornings tend to work best, before the distractions of home life and the job take over. I also write well when I’m moving, like on the train. My commute has become a big focus for my writing over the last many years, because it’s about the same length of time every day, and it’s bracketed by a mile walk on each end, to clear my head. Plus, I don’t mind if my train gets delayed, if I’m writing! 🙂

    There are certainly days I envy those writers who don’t have to go off to an office every day like I do…but I’ve embraced the ritual of my commute, which keeps me writing, so in other ways, I’m thankful I have to leave the comfy confines of my home space.

    Happy writing today!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love the sound of your day, Mayumi. You’re one of a handful of people I know that actually has made positive use out of a commute. Not that I think commutes are splendid, but if we have no choice, then let’s try to make the best of them! Hard to interrupt your writing time with a situation like yours, I would think, and that’s enviable. 🙂

      Like

    • An even funnier image is me walking around the house in my fuzzy socks, talking to myself, but my dog thinks I’m talking to her, and starts following me! Tis true!

      Ah, a silent house and coffee — a perfect setting for a writer. What a blessing!

      Liked by 1 person

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  8. although currently out of a day job I am very busy trying to find another job! and producing more books! my “routine” isn’t really a routine anymore – there’s so much to do! but, I have developed a small ritual – every day I write one haiku and one short form poem in my small journal. Then I write 150 words of my current new write in the larger journal. Once a week I type everything up. For me, this works because it feels like I’m creating something, even when life is so hectic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your ritual! I have been thinking lately that I need to indulge in more poetry. I’m not very good at it–not like you are!–but I enjoy using words and phrasing in non-traditional ways.

      I agree, it is difficult to pull together a routine when we have so much to do and each day has different demands. That’s my biggest problem, the surprises from day to day that have to be taken care of in the moment. Throws me completely off.

      Like

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