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!