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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? What is a good writing ritual? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.
What is a good writing ritual? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.
I have a question from Andy Achremcikas, a writer based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Here’s what he’s asked by email….
“What is a 10-minute routine or ritual that the best writers use to help them with their writing?”
Thanks for your question, Andy. I’m glad you added the impressive — and evocative — word “ritual” to your very wise phrasing.
It’s really smart to incorporate rituals into your life, in part because they will make anything you need to do easier and more interesting. They’ll also help you CREATE time for writing. By defining beginnings and endings to any task, we’re certain to get that task done!
Just one important point though. I don’t want you to think there is only ONE such ritual. You should not be looking for a ritual that suits me, or even one that suits much more famous writers like Margaret Atwood and Stephen King. We are all individuals and we all have different needs and very different points of inspiration.
The thing about rituals is they need to be PERSONAL and idiosyncratic. If writing at a desk with flowers on it helps you write, then put flowers on your desk. But if you’re immune to flowers, then don’t. Some people like listening to music. Others don’t. Some people prefer the sound of coffee shops or noises from nature. See the show-notes below for a link about writing to sound.
I can’t possibly predict the biggest motivators to you, so be sure to look at your own life and figure out what will help you glide into the path of writing.
I can give you a couple of warnings, though.
First, unless you are a night owl, try to do your writing in the morning, first thing. When I say first thing, I don’t mean 5 am or 6 am. Sleep is fundamentally important to writers. But if you write first, you won’t develop the terrible habit of procrastinating. (If you’re a night-owl, however, it’s perfectly fine to make your writing time after 11 pm.)
Second, if you are a morning writer, don’t look at email or the news before you write. Both of these activities are way too distracting and will allow the needs of other people to interfere with your own. Instead, write first and deal with email and the news later.
Third, always start your writing with mindmapping. I’ve done a number of videos and blog posts on this magical technique and I include a link in the show notes below.
Fourth, here is a list of tasks you might want to include as part of your own writing ritual. Don’t use any of them just because I’ve mentioned them. Instead, look for something that’s going to resonate with you:
- Having a cup of tea or coffee
- Reading something short (not email!)
- Listening to music
If you do any of these things already, that will be really helpful to you, because then you can STACK your new writing habit, on top of a habit that already exists. Habit stacking means pairing a new task with a current habit. In this way, your existing habit helps you to build a new one.
Andy, here’s a good way to think of it: a ritual is another name for a habit. And good habits help us accomplish tasks that are important to us.
Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the Italian-American writer André Aciman: “Rituals are the building blocks of life, my way of cobbling an entire summer together from incidental wisps.”
Andy, I like the phrase “incidental wisps” that Acimen uses. It suggests that the rituals, in and of themselves, aren’t extremely important activities. Instead, they are simply the launching point for the terribly important job of writing.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.