Rituals can seem like solemn, religious, ceremonial processes, but we all incorporate rituals into our daily lives. When you get ready for bed, your system of getting ready – brushing your teeth, washing your face, showering, changing, whatever else you choose to do – is a ritual that tells your brain that it’s time for bed. Getting ready in the morning tells your brain that it’s time to work. So why not set up a ritual for getting ready to write?
Writing creatively is a different process than most of the other things that happen in your day, so setting up a few steps in between can ease you into your writing groove. Here are a few ideas; you can use all of them or just one or two!
Choose a time of day.
We all operate at our best at specific times of the day, and you may find that early morning, late night, or mid-afternoon is your ideal time. Obviously your ideal writing time might clash with other family or work responsibilities, but as much as possible, choose a consistent time for your writing that you can stick to at least a few days a week.
Set up your space.
Choose one space in your house or at a nearby coffee shop where you can sit and write with as little interruption as possible. If you have the space to work at home, set up everything you will need in your space – computer or notebook, pens, water/tea/coffee, a clock or timer, and whatever other accoutrements you like to have at hand when you write.
Choose a soundtrack.
What do you like to listen to when you write? I like silence, personally, but I know many writers who tailor their soundtrack to the tone of their writing for the day. Whatever your preference, choose your soundtrack before your writing session begins so you can spend the entire time focused on your writing.
Choose a scent or candle.
Scent can have a powerful effect on your brain. Choosing a scent or scented candle to burn every time you work on a writing project can help you create an association between the scent and the activity, further prepping your brain for writing time.
Breathe and/or move a little.
We all spend too much time hunched over our computers and phones, and moving slowly and intentionally can stimulate your creative brain. Spend a few minutes before you write with your eyes closed, taking deep breaths (Try this: inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and do that ten times) or moving through a couple of yoga poses to increase blood flow and alertness. You can also try going for a walk just before you sit down to write – just make sure to leave your phone behind!
Shut off access to social networks.
Nothing is worse for creativity than getting caught in your Facebook or Twitter news feed. Use a tool like Freedom or SelfControl to block your social sites for a set amount of time so you can’t distract yourself from that difficult section by wandering over to Instagram.
Do something that inspires you.
I like reading the words of other writers; what do you find inspiring? Maybe it’s reading a couple of quotes about writing, maybe you get jazzed up reading a passage you wrote yesterday to get you on your way. Whatever it is, incorporate 5 minutes of inspiration time into your writing ritual.
Set a timer.
25 minutes (or 45 minutes, depending on who you talk to) is apparently the ideal amount of time to sit and focus before taking a break. You may find that one or the other – or something in between – works perfectly for you. Whatever your magic number, stick to it, take a break, and then do it again if you can!
After all this preparation, don’t skip the most important part: write! Remember that it doesn’t matter what you write, especially at first – setting up a writing ritual is all about triggering your brain to go into creative writing mode as you move through the separate pieces of the ritual. After a few weeks of your ritual setup, writing should start to come a little easier than it did before.
Building habits is hard. Researchers have shown that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a habit to stick, which seems like an awfully long time to struggle to make something happen. So before you start setting up this writing ritual, ask yourself: Why do you want to write regularly? Do you imagine yourself as a millionaire author? Do you have a compulsion to write but excellent avoidance skills? Do you have a self-publishing goal? Do you have a specific story you want to tell? Do you want to be perceived a certain way by other people? Diving into your own motivation will help you decide why, how, and how much you will devote yourself to this practice of writing.
Bonus step: Celebrate!
Part of building successful habits is to reward yourself when you achieve your micro-goals along the way. Rewarding yourself can be as simple as getting a latte on your way to work instead of a black coffee when you hit 1000 words in a day or as big as booking a trip when you finish your novel. Whatever it is, make a plan to reward yourself often for hitting your writing goals – you’re doing a good job and you should remind yourself of that!
What do you include in your writing ritual? Any points you want to add? Let me know in the comments!