Somebody Else Says: Writing Rituals

I hear a lot of writers talk about their rituals–the process they go through every time they sit down to write, the steps they take before they put their fingers onto the keyboard.

I’ve never set anything up like this for myself. It helps me to have a cup of tea. This is probably mostly about giving my hands something to do while my mind is (hopefully) busy thinking. And I do need music, but it doesn’t seem to be connected in any way to the particular story I’m working on. It goes more with my mood–if I need something melodic in the background or something a little noisier to get my brain actually fired up. And, yes, probably Step #1 does need to be–for all of us–Shut Down the Internet, but I’m not quite there yet.

Anyway, I scanned around & came up with some links for us all to check out. I’d love to hear your rituals, too, in the comments!

When you are ready to write, do you just sit down and dig in? Or are there specific steps that help you warm up and alert your brain that it’s time to start?

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20 thoughts on “Somebody Else Says: Writing Rituals

  1. I call my rituals “warming up.” My steps include:

    1. Prayer.

    2. Journaling.

    3. Reading an article on the craft.

    4. Reviewing character notes.

    5. Reviewing research notes.

    6. Proofreading what I wrote the day before.

    7. Watching a music video.

    I blogged about this last year, so if you’re interested, my further thoughts can be found here.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Lovely post–thanks for linnking us to it. I love that you actually spend a chunk of time on this prep. I think it would really help me to do something like this.

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  2. I write for about two hours a day, and about thirty minutes of it is warm up. I have a hard time going “cold turkey” into my writing. It takes a while for my brain to unravel from the hustle of the day and focus on my story. So even though thirty minutes is a considerable amount of time, I’ve always felt it was well worth it. Much better than watching the cursor blink for thirty minutes!

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  3. Linda says:

    Ritual? Hmmm. I have 2 sides: writing & illustrating. For both, dreams help. Weird, I know, but often a snag in either arena is solved as I awaken—maybe it’s better to say the solution comes from the place between worlds, if that makes sense to you. Anyway, I see or feel what I need and race to the computer/messy art table. Wait. I lie. I race to coffee, then to work.
    For writing, I need an absolute quiet background(tough on retired husband. Nothing, nada, zero gets done while grandkids are around, hence my usual wakeup work time @ 5 am). For art, I NEED to play the SAME cd, the soundtrack to the movie, “Last of the Mohicans”. Obsessive-compulsive or simply crazy? And no, I am not just thinking of Daniel Day Lewis running through the forest (well, a little). One track is repetitive and circular and helps me slide into to the art mentally.
    Stopping now,
    Linda

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    • beckylevine says:

      Linda, I love this. My husband works at home, too, and we’re constantly juggling sharing what’s going on with us and NOT interrupting creative brain flow! 🙂

      And I have one CD that I go back to every time I’m struggling with writing. Metapedia by the McGarrigle sisters. I read once that playing the same music hits a trigger in our brain that it’s now TIME TO WRITE–or whatever we do when that music is on. Seems to be true for me.

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    • beckylevine says:

      P.J., How good are you at turning off the web when you work? THat’s turned into my real challenge–but I can’t not check email first! 🙂

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  4. Jim says:

    When I am at home my ritual typically involves numerous brownie breaks to avoid actually writing.

    Which is why I now go to a private library I joined where I am most disappointed if my usual comfy leather chair has been taken by someone else. (In which case I usually hover nearby until they leave, and then pounce into my place.)

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    • beckylevine says:

      Hey, Jim. See, the brownie thing would probably work great for my writing–cause I’d just keep a plate on the desk beside me. I’d never have to leave the computer. (Or be able to, after a while!)

      The library sounds a bit like my coffeehouse, except not private. But the best tables near the plugs. Oh, and they have brownies.

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  5. Hey Becky!

    I just want to clarify that my collaging isn’t part of my daily writing process or ritual–more something I do when my brain is completely empty of words and needs filling up, and I want to linger in the story world.

    My daily ritual is pretty simple, really. I get up, stumble to the coffee pot, allow myself to read email only as long as it takes the coffee to brew, then stumble to my rocking chair and Alpha Smart in the living room, type until out of words.

    I use the Alpha Smart because it’s less distracting than a laptop and the keyboard is easier on my wrists. Sometimes, especially for emotional bits or scenes, I need to write longhand. If I don’t feel I’ve gotten enough words in for the day, or I feel another scene bubbling around, close to the surface, I’ll take a long, hot bath instead of a shower and see if that coaxes something loose. Or a nap. Naps are great because you’re waking up all over again, and the subconscious is still fairly connected to your conscious brain. Like Linda said, that between place is very fertile!

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  6. beckylevine says:

    Robin–I just liked the collage idea so much, I had to include your link, even though I figured it wasn’t an every morning thing.

    I think I need to spend more time in the between place. 🙂

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    • beckylevine says:

      Barrie, I usually can let the kitchen go (or do bare minimum) for a day or two, and then I can’t stand it. Same with desk. 🙂

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  7. Shawna says:

    Hi Becky, great post!

    My rituals have changed over the years. It was all about sitting in a quiet house with at least 3 uninterrupted hours ahead of me, beverage in hand and the story spinning in my head, or notes that I’d written the day prior. I still have a cup of coffee or glass of water handy but now that I have less time to write, I just get in there as soon as I can and go as fast as I can before the next interruption. I’ll listen to music before I write a scene but seldom while writing a scene. LOL! I guess I currently have no ritual. : )

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    • beckylevine says:

      I can imagine you don’t have time to spend on long rituals. I don’t have one either, but I do, these days, have time to set one up. So I’m wondering…

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