Writing Rituals

Photo credit: visualpanic

What rituals do you follow when you’re writing? Cup of tea or coffee before you sit down? Certain music to set the mood? Switch off the internet?

I’ve tried them all.

Before I had my daughter, back when I worked full time a forty five minute drive from home, in a job that required long hours and a lot of time in airports and hotels, my core writing time used to be 6am to 7am. My ritual was pretty much set. I’d roll out of bed at the alarm, make myself a cup of tea, and plonk myself down in front of the keyboard to write. It wasn’t much of a routine, but it worked, and I got words down. If I had any other time to write during the day, that was a bonus. If I didn’t, well, that was okay too. I’d done my hour.

But as my life changed, so did my routine. With a baby, then a toddler, a guaranteed hour to write was no longer possible. So I had to find a way to make sure I was in the mood to write, whenever an opportunity presented itself.

I started with tea – a certain cup and saucer set I only used when I was writing. Then peppermint tea, because the scent and taste of it told me I should be getting words. Then scented candles, a certain spot in the house, or my favourite coffee shop, or the library. A playlist, a soundtrack to the WIP, or just classical music, or no sound at all. A certain pen, a certain writing programme, a certain book beside me on the desk.

Everything worked for a short time, but nothing worked all the time. Eventually, I stopped feeling that I had to have a strict order or ritual to get to work. Whatever feels right on the day, now, is what I go with. Sometimes I don’t bother at all.

I think this probably says more about me, than about the inherent usefulness of writing rituals. I need to keep ringing the changes, to help keep the feeling fresh. I like having things to remind me that this is writing time, and I don’t need to feel guilty about spending time following my dream. But mostly, it’s about words on the page and, usually, I get those regardless of what rituals I follow.

I do always need a cup of tea, though.

Anyone want to share their writing rituals?

7 thoughts on “Writing Rituals

  1. amyleebell says:

    I enjoy writing early in the mornings before my son wakes up. It’s actually what I should be doing right this minute. (It’s 7am here). Once he’s up, I find it difficult to concentrate – plus I homeschool, so I feel guilty if I don’t shut down the laptop and interact with him quite a bit. One thing that may help you if you have a toddler (I did this to get myself through all those research papers in university): I would take my little guy to an indoor playground, buy a cup of tea, and let him play for a couple of hours while I really knuckled down to get some work done. It worked wonders because he was completely happy, so he didn’t cling to me, and he was completely safe, so I didn’t worry about him!

    • Sophie Pembroke says:

      I love the indoor playground idea – we have a couple around here. Only problem is that she likes to drag me in to play in them with her…

      I know what you mean about feeling guilty for not shutting down the laptop. On days when I’m at home with my daughter, I try to schedule at least one proper activity a day – something we do together, to make sure I’m completely focussed on her for part of the day. Obviously, when you add in meals and jigsaws and tea parties and all those other things I end up doing in a day, we actually have a lot more time together. But having one thing I can point to means I feel less guilty about snatching ten minutes when she’s playing happily on her own to scribble some words, or jot down ideas or something.

      • amyleebell says:

        You’re right! Even though I’m around my son all day, he is especially happy when we take 10 or 15 minutes to do something together like play with Legos or build a train track. That small amount of play time together really means a lot to him!

    • Sophie Pembroke says:

      My job’s changing next month, and I think I’m going to have to go back to very early in the morning, before everyone else is up. I’m yawning just thinking about it…

  2. Shelley Munro says:

    LOL I’m a terrible procrastinator at times. The only thing that really works for me is to tell myself to stop mucking around and just do it!!
    Sometimes I’ll work at a cafe. I can’t move around so I get more work done.

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