I got an email earlier this week from someone trying to sell me something that asked me what my writing routine was. The goal of that email (not this blog post!) was to get me to buy a piece of software that would improve my writing rituals. (Before you ask, you don’t need the software, I promise, or I would totally tell you about it.)
But it got me thinking about rituals.
A ritual is a ceremony that is made of actions performed in a prescribed manner.
And oh, lordy, do I love a ritual.
I have so many rituals in my life. A sampling:
- The way I push the dogs out of my office every morning to lay out my yoga mat and move my body around for thirty minutes.
- The way I heat my oatmeal for four minutes exactly, and then add the frozen blueberries so I get an infusion of insta-cool which means I can get to the eating part of my day faster.
- The way I polish my glasses when thinking about emotion, as if that would make it easier for me to see.
I like rituals with everything, everywhere.
When I’m in a strange city, I set up a routine on the very first day. I unpack my clothes, putting them into drawers and setting my paperwork in order on whatever desk I have nearby. I find a new “favorite” cafe and go back often. I used to bring a scented candle when I traveled until I almost started my agent’s apartment on fire (true story) and now I don’t bring extra flames with me. I even unpack in a tent.
And I really love my writing routine, which is always changing.
I know that’s contrary to the usual advice of “always play the same music” or “always have the same scent in the air.” Shouldn’t writing rituals be rules that you’ve set yourself and that you follow, hard and fast?
Look. Life isn’t static. It’s always, always changing. If I’d made myself stick to the same cafe where I used to get excellent work done, I’d be there right now, hating the smell of onions (they added cooked food to the menu) and distracted by the woman talking to herself while wearing intricately crafted items made from foil (bless her, but I can’t tune her out even with white noise turned up to 11).
If I’d made myself stick to writing at 4am, I’d BE VERY SAD AND TIRED.
If I’d made myself stick to writing when the mood struck, I’d have no books written at all.
Old writing rituals die. New ones rise to take their place. That’s natural.
I’ve recently learned that the best routine for me in writing is putting my feet up. Who knew? It seems, for me, that sitting with feet down means email and tasks. Feet up (or standing) means making new words. (You can’t really do the feet-up thing if you’re in a cafe or you turn into one of THOSE people, like the people who Skype without headphones in public.)
My routine, though solid and predictable on a daily basis, changes over the long term. It’s always moving, always a work in progress.
That’s okay. That’s good. That’s life.
I will admit that a few things always remain, though, and I’ll list them here in case they’re of use to you:
- I use Write or Die to catch my first drafts. No jump-scares, no kamikaze mode, I just have the screen go to red when I’m not writing, and I get a puppy image when I’m done.
- I use Post-its like some people put parmesan on pasta — everywhere, with gusto.
- I write in silence at home, and with white noise when I’m out. (Years ago, I used to write with music, but I can hear the rhythm of my words better with no melody.)
- I use Sharpwriter pencils. Always Sharpwriter. Plain, cheap, basic, reliable. (Like me!)
- Scent is helpful for me, so I burn incense or put a pan of cinnamon/clove water on a low burner (CAUTION: FLAMES!). It’s not so much what it smells like as the fact that the air just smells nice.
Don’t worry if you’re still finding your way into your perfect writing routine. If it’s changing, that’s good.
I’d love to know your writing rituals. Leave a comment!
Encouragement, once a week. Free.
Do this for yourself, for the writer you want to be.