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Archive for March 5th, 2010

Writing Rituals
Friday, March 5th, 2010

I suspect that every writer has his or her own ritual, however elaborate or simple. Something the writer does to coax the muse out of hiding. Why do them at all? I think it’s all about creating habits.

I’ve said it before, but a professional writer can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. The pro sits in front of the PC, hands on keys, and writes. Writing, for the pro, is something you practice and do often.

When I was in the corporate world, I attended every productivity seminar out there. One thing stressed over and over was the idea that habits, good or bad, are created by repetition. And it takes about 21 days of doing a particular task, over and over, to make it a habit.

Rituals are a palatable way to “set” a new habit. Maybe you decide you’re going to hit the treadmill every morning, but you hate exercise. If you know you have to do it 21 days in a row to establish the habit, you will want to turn part of that daily task into a pleasant ritual—so maybe you play the theme to Rocky to make you smile before you step onto that rubber track. Maybe you create a playlist of inspirational songs to keep your feet moving for the entire 30 minutes you set as your daily goal.

Writing needs to be a habit, reinforced with repetition and maybe flavored with a ritual to make it a little more fun.

When I decided that I wanted to create “morning pages” every day like Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way, I tried it, but couldn’t keep up with the exercises. I felt like I was “wasting” my muse on getting words onto a page that no one would ever read. I think I’m a little too German for the “fruitier” creative strategies. I took her idea of “morning pages” because I could see the benefit of opening up the tap every morning, but I decided to turn it into something more productive for me. I now blog religiously every morning. It’s the thing I crawl out of bed to do before I’m fully awake and before I’ve brushed my teeth, had that first cup of coffee, or talked to another human being.

My daily “getting-ready-to-write” ritual now includes: “morning pages” blog, cup of coffee, quick update of my To Do list, then opening my page counter spreadsheet and my WIP.

I’ve shared my ritual, now I want to hear about yours. Maybe we’ll all see something we’d like to try.