Rituals: Jump-Start Your Writing

Both writing challenges started today. For the first few exciting days of any challenge or new goal, it’s easier to get started.

But sooner or later, something happens. Enthusiasm leaks away. Boredom sets in. Discouragement invites quitting.

What do you need then? A way to “jump-start” your writing. (To “jump-start” means “to give something new energy and cause it to start quickly.”) And for many writers–past and present–that “jump-start” is a particular writing ritual.

Ritual = Automatic Habit Creator

A writing ritual is something you do–usually several small “somethings”–that signal to your brain that it’s time to write! A sleep ritual of bath/stories/song/prayer signals “time to sleep” for a child. In the same way, our little rituals can signal to us that it’s “time to write.”

My own writing ritual is very simple. I’ve tried longer and more complicated rituals, but this is what works for me:

  • (1) silence
  • (2) hot chocolate or hot cider
  • (3) light a votive candle in my pansy candle holder
  • (4) 15 minutes of journaling or “morning pages” to plan or dump feelings
  • (5) short prayer
  • (6) five deep, slow breaths
  • (7) start the timer that is set for 30 minutes and WRITE on the novel

That sounds like a long ritual, but it only takes twenty minutes (as long as I “prepped my writing desk” the night before, getting my writing notes ready.) On a day when I’m rushed, I skip the journaling part, but I can always tell a difference. For some reason, I don’t require any rituals when writing nonfiction. 

Writers and Rituals: Take Your Pick

If you Google “writing rituals,” you’ll find many articles suggesting different types of music, wearing certain clothes or socks, being alone, being in a crowd like a coffee shop, etc. Writing rituals take into account your environment, the time of day, and particular behaviors. All are designed to reduce your anxiety and help you slide into writing, almost without thinking. One very good article on writing rituals is by Susan Perry, author of Writing in Flow.

You might enjoy reading about the Writing Rituals and Routines of famous writers to get some ideas. Skim through the 8 Strange Rituals of Productive Writers too, because that is the whole purpose of rituals: being productive.

Finding What Works for You

Experiment until you have a ritual–or series of little rituals–that helps you get into your writing. It can take a while before you discover what works best for you, but it’s worth the search to find something that helps you start quickly with energy.

Do you have a favorite ritual that helps you get in the mood to write? Please leave a comment and share!

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12 Responses to Rituals: Jump-Start Your Writing

  1. SuZan says:

    What does prepping your desk entail?

    • kwpadmin says:

      For me, it means putting away whatever I was working on in the afternoon (might be a critique, some nonfiction, studying a writing book) and getting out my novel outline and whatever research I might need for the next day’s writing. The less I have to do in the morning…and the cleaner my desk looks…the easier it is for me to get started. :-)

  2. Jane Ault says:

    This is my early morning ritual: I note whatever thoughts are circulating in my head in the moments I awake up. Then, I get up, drink a large glass of water (caffeine stimulates my creative neurons too much) and sit down at the table with my prayer- journal. I write in it, communing with God, until my mind is calm and refreshed.

    • kwpadmin says:

      My journaling sounds like yours, Jane. It is my mental and emotional and spiritual adjustment for the day. My initial thoughts for the day are too much worries or “aches and pains” thoughts. :-)

  3. I love this suggestion, Kristi. By setting up your writing place the day before (another ritual), you eliminate a lot of barriers to getting started the next day. With your desk all ready to greet you, what else can you do but write? I’m going to work on making sure that my space invites me to get writing in the morning. Thanks!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Heather, it probably takes no more than two minutes–maybe not even that–to ready my desk the night before. But it has the best impact on me the next morning when I’m struggling through the fog to get going. :-)

  4. Donna Haynes Robertson says:

    Kristi, I love the idea of a ritual for getting into your writing first thing. I have a lovely office which I seldom use because of the chaos on my desk. I know better, but it seems to be a catch-all spot for the debris of my life. A desk clearing ritual might help to keep me focused so that I don’t have any excuses not to write. Of course, I might have to spend an hour to get it to the point where I can even see the surface! LOL! I also like the idea of lighting a candle on the desk. I always find that so calming. Now if I can just keep my cat away from it. I am going to spend some time thinking about my writing rituals today. Thanks, Kristi.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Yes, getting the office in shape at the beginning took me an entire day. But if I keep up with it, just a few minutes will do it each night. Don’t have any tips about the cat though! I’m strictly an “animals belong outside” kind of person. It took some experimenting before I found a ritual I liked that wasn’t too long. And now I stock up on votive candles on sale! Right after Thanksgiving, you can buy pumpkin spice scented candles or things that smell like pumpkin pie or cranberries for next to nothing, like 75% off. I still have one box left from last fall. Soon I’ll need to stock up again!

  5. Alice Berger says:

    I can’t function in any kind of clutter, so the first thing I have to do is clear the table or desk of anything but what I need. I’ve found that I am pretty good at setting a time to write, and sticking to it, simply out of necessity. I write morning pages when I get up, and I do the majority of my reviews on my lunch hour at work. So even if I don’t “feel like” writing, I do it anyway, knowing it won’t get done if I don’t. But I’m better at doing things that I have a deadline for – like the reviews – than things I’m working on for fun – like the novels.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Alice, you’ve hit the nail on the head for the majority of novelists I know, including me. Working on something with a deadline is so much easier (for getting started and just DOING it) than something without a deadline. That’s partly why I make it as easy as possible on myself to write on the novel in the morning fairly early. Otherwise resistance sets in! :-)

  6. Nicole Atkinson says:

    Hello Kristi,
    I have never really done anything to put me in the writing mood. Maybe that’s why
    I can’t get much writing done. I am definitely going to make a mental note of what
    I actually do before I sit down to write. For me, though, I like pictures of nature and
    landscape, beautiful beaches. Somewhere where I feel like I can escape to, without
    really going there. That, plus if I actually had a specific place for writing. My own little
    writing nook.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Nicole, you will probably need to experiment to see what works best for you. I like photos too, mostly of English gardens and thatched roof cottages! And yes, when your “nook” is the dining room table or the couch, it’s harder. A corner of your bedroom maybe? I used a tiny closet once, painted orange, and it was my office for years.

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