Do you sometimes have problems getting started? Well, writing rituals are all about getting your head in the game, or should we say ‘on the page’...? We put our brains together and assembled four fundamental rituals for writers and some tips on how you can tailor them to suit you. Get ready to get your writing groove on!
This is something that can actually be a bit dangerous. ‘Prepare Yourself’ can very easily turn into ‘Faff About’, and, as we all know, Faffing About is something we writers can be very prone to. However, pre-writing rituals can help you get into the right headspace; if you repeat the same pre-writing actions consistently, your brain will quickly cotton on that it’s time to write and will settle down quicker. That’s the theory, anyway.
If you are a late night writer, it might be a good idea to spend ten minutes or so clearing the mind; a shower, a bath, ten minutes’ meditation, a walk around the block - anything that will serve as a demarcation between your working day and your creative time is pretty essential to help you relax, cleanse the day from your brain and open your mind to new ideas.
Select clothes that make you feel comfortable or confident. Try listening to soundtrack music that corresponds with the mood of the scene you’re about to write. Choose your stimulant of choice. Don’t get carried away; you’re not Coleridge. A good cup of coffee or tea, drunk while staring into space, can be very conducive to the early morning writer - for me, there has to be three shots of espresso in the coffee; one to open each eye, and one to start the heart. In the afternoons; tea and biscuits keep the energy going to get you over the post-lunch, pre-dinner slump; and if you’re an evening writer, a little glass of something civilised or a post-dinner espresso can help you relax a bit, and act as another useful line between the working day and the creative evening.
Preparing yourself is a very personal process, so start to notice the things that put you in the right frame of mind to write and begin to build these into your own ritual.
Prepare your space
Lock the door, if you can. Seriously. A clear boundary between the rest of the household and yourself is essential if you’re going to be allowed to get on with your writing. If you feel bad about it, say you’re working from home - because actually, you are.
A pleasant environment is always going to be nicer to spend time in. Tidy up a bit the night before, and tempt yourself to write by surrounding yourself with inspiring artwork, bookshelves, even scented candles; I have an essential oils vaporiser next to my bed, which is where I write. If all this feels self-indulgent, good. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Look after your posture. I know, I know - I sound like your mum - but a bad back or a cricked neck is no fun at all. If you’re writing in bed, prop yourself up properly with pillows, and check that your shoulders and hands are in the correct position. Remember to get up and walk around the room from time to time, too - even if you’re on a roll, you need to get the circulation going. Set your phone to ping you a reminder every fifty minutes.
Time it right
Many writers find that it’s easier to write at the start of the day, before the brain gets clogged up with domestic chore lists, procrastination, self-doubt, and all the other myriad enemies to creativity. Most writers would urge you to keep something to write with by your bed; if you’re made of strong, internet-resistant stuff, that might be your phone, or you might want to play it safe and stick to the less-tempting notebook and pen. This means that ideas can be jotted down as soon as they strike, which is very often in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
If you plan to spend the whole day writing, it’s a good idea to take your laptop up to bed with you, so you can crack straight on as soon as you wake up. Of course, not everyone will want to write in a recumbent position (why ever not?), but if you must insist on getting business-like and vertical, have your laptop charged and ready.
You can take this one step further by setting yourself up for success the night before. Fill the kettle, prepare breakfast crockery, set out your clothes. Take out as many steps between waking and writing as you possibly can, allowing you to just get on with it.
Build an inspirational treasure trove
As we float through life, we’re constantly having little ideas, thinking of awesome lines of dialogue, noticing interesting or odd things, and stumbling upon mind fodder in books, magazines, the internet, social media, podcasts - everywhere! Don’t let these little golden nuggets pass you by.
Keeping a research file isn’t a new concept. Plenty of well known writers leap at the opportunity to brandish a massive ring binder in an interview, or talk about their personal research library. And for good reason! However, you don’t need to stick to researching topics specific to what you’re writing.
Try making a digital inspiration file that you can keep online, using a cloud storage service like Google Drive, One Drive or Dropbox. Why? So you can access it anywhere, at any time, from any device, making it really easy to store away little interesting pearls as soon as you come across them.
This is not only a great way to build up a research archive specifically for your project, but it’s also a great way to create a hoard of inspirational, interesting material that you can dive into to get into your writing groove or spark new ideas.
And there you have it. Those are our four, golden rituals to get the productive juices flowing. Give them a try and who knows? You might just end up becoming the next Margaret Atwood...
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Cover image by asundermeier via Pixabay. Other imagery by StockSnap, VinzentWeinbeer, qimono.