Unorthodox Writing Tips 18: Ritualistic Writing

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve read more than one blog post (I think four) about writing rituals. I found this odd that all of these websites were separate. I would link to them all, but things go by and I’d have to go look them up. That’s a distraction and will stop me from achieving my writing goals. Sorry, I just feel you and I are both better served if I get words out rather than spend time looking things up on the internet.

There was a fairly common theme to all the writing ritual posts. It went in great detail describing either one person’s writing ritual or the rituals of multiple people. Some were interesting. Others were very to the point (I sit, I write, I get back up until I’m ready to write some more). I read them all and thought one thing was missing.

How do you form a writing ritual?

None of the posts really explained how or why someone would need a ritual to get them into the writing mood. Reading this was almost like the worst writing advice I’d ever read. How do you write 50,000 words in a week? Rent a hotel room and write 10,000 words a day.


Sure, reading about other rituals is interesting, but I didn’t look at it as writing advice. It was mostly just telling us what others do to prepare to write.

I’ve had several rituals over the years. How did I form them? I think that’s the most important question. If you want to be able to sit and write, the shorter the ritual the better, right? You don’t want to spend half of your valuable writing time getting ready to write or even distract you from writing all together.

I used to sit down and before I would write, I would cut up a couple of oranges. After eating them I’d need to wash my hands with lavender soap (it’s what we had available). Then I’d sit and write.

At the time I wasn’t thinking of a writing ritual. It was just what I did. I did this for several weeks and it just became more of a habit. And I like oranges. Even orange juice worked for getting my creative juices flowing. Sometimes I’d light a candle or burn some incense. Just the act of lighting them would kick my brain into gear. When I stopped doing that, I fell into a slump. Well, I was in a slump and I never performed those tasks.

What I did when I got back into writing, I found my incense tray and incense. I found my candles. Right now I lit the candle, and I felt the need to sit at the computer and write. This old habit has stuck with me.

It’s basic psychology. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs. They would hear a bell before they ate. Soon they associated the bell with food and would salivate without the presence of food. You can use this same psychology on yourself. Ring a bell, light a candle, eat a chocolate, have a beverage. Then sit and write. Work on creating an association with something that you can easily relate to not only writing, but creativity. Something quick, simple, but effective.

Sitting in a chair isn’t always enough. This little candle sitting next to me draws my attention and inspires me. I cannot explain why it works, but it’s what I used as a writing tool. Something to tell me brain it was time to sit and write. You can do the same. Find that little something and start putting it together with writing. Use it each time you sit and write for it to be effective. Soon you’ll have a need to write. Perhaps it’s singing along with a favorite song, a special shirt, walking outside and feeling the sun on your face, laying on the floor and looking at the ceiling. It can be anything, but for the most effective results, make it something short and simple.

For me, smells are highly effective in kicking ye olde brain into gear. For you it might be a visual queue, a painting, the background on your desktop, a picture your six year old drew for you. Don’t let your imagination be limited to what you use as s writing queue, ritual, habit, whatever you want to call it. Do the same thing for several writing sessions and soon you’re find it easier and easier to sit and write.

Do you have a ritual that works for you? How did you form it? Was it intentional or accidental? How effective is it? Do you have different more than one ritual? Does one work more effectively than another? I’d love to hear what you do.

Until Next Time!


Posted on March 2, 2012, in Unorthodox Writing Tips. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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