Life is full of rituals. It can be a simple morning routine — a shower, a cup of coffee and a half hour of exercise — to get you going after you wake up, or a very specific act that has to happen before you can accomplishing something, like double-checking all the doors are locked before going to bed at night. Whatever it is, you can’t help it; it’s ingrained in your subconscious to help you feel happier, healthier or more secure. I’m sure, as writers, we all have certain rituals we must adhere to in order to find that creative groove and churn out that next great American novel. It doesn’t matter what that ritual might be; everyone has a different personality, so no one ritual will ever be the same. However, if you’re finding it hard to find the time to write, or when you do, you just don’t have the energy to put any words to paper (which most would call writer’s block), here are some things you might add to your current rituals to help get the juices flowing before sitting down to write.
Sometimes, the succubus of life may devour all of the creative energy from your soul. When that happens, it can be extremely hard to build a rhythm. So, every day before you start writing, grab a book and read for an hour. Reading is a great way to spark creativity, especially when you read something and think, “I wish I would have thought of that (or written that).” I myself find movies to be an extremely effective way to spark my creativity (sometimes, after watching a gloriously made movie, I hit the computer to write regardless of what else I have to do, simply because it feels the force has awakened in me), but books work the exact same way. There’s nothing better than that feeling of magic and enchantment words can evoke. And when you make reading a ritual, not only are you burning the embers of your creativity, but you’ll slowly find yourself becoming a better writer because of it.
Time and Place
One of the biggest things most writers (and I am not excluding myself from this group) will say when asked how their book is coming along is, “I’m having a hard time finding time to finish it.” Yes, we know; we all have jobs we need to worry about and family to take care of. But if you’re serious about going from aspiring writer to published author, you will find the time to do so, no matter what. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, how long it may be, or where you do it, but schedule that time and don’t avoid it. If you are going to write from 10 to 11 at night in your bed, do it, and make it a ritual. When I wrote In the Light of the Eclipse, I wrote every day during my lunch. It didn’t matter how much I wrote (sometimes it was a paragraph, sometimes a page), but the moment I clocked out, the laptop was open.
In conjunction with the previous ritual, choosing a set amount of words to write per day is also an effective ritual that will keep you moving forward. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you set a minimum of 100 words or 10,000 words per day, so long as you meet that minimum number. If you know your obligations will never allow you the time to sit still for more than ten minutes at a time, break it up with word count. Just remember; this number cannot change – it has to become habit.
Check Your Notes
It’s hard for some to jump right back into their art after waking up in the morning, or returning from work, or taking the kids to soccer practice. There’s that moment when you say, “Okay, where was I?” A good ritual to take up for this problem is to review your notes, or reread the last couple of pages or chapter, to get your mind back into the swing of things. I do this often, especially when I haven’t been able to write for a day or two. By doing this, it helps me remember where my head was at at the time and what I may have been ready to write before life came and pulled me away from the computer.
Play With Your Muse
As a writer, the muse is your best friend. But it’s also a bit of a narcissist and can get very temperamental when it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Don’t be afraid to spend a little time each day with your muse; acknowledge its power and how much you need it. If your muse comes only when it’s silent, find a place where there isn’t any noise and do some yoga, or practice your zen for a half hour. If you’re like me, your muse needs noise, so grab your headphones and have a solo dance party in your room, or watch your favorite TV show. Whatever brings your muse out to play, make sure you feed it before doing anything else, because even if it’s already there and ready to write, if you ignore it, it may not stick around for very long.
Bottom line, writing isn’t about the constant act of typing on the keyboard; it’s about creating an atmosphere that generates the creativity needed to produce the characters and plots that your readers will enjoy. Creating your own rituals will help you generate quality work, while helping you grow as an artist. Find something that fits your personality, stick with it, and before you know it, your book will be complete, and you can ask your muse to begin the next.