Writing rituals

Most writers have rituals, little warm-up routines that we must complete before daily writing commences. Our personal writing rituals, which can sometimes be elaborate, are considered sacred to the creative process. Victor Hugo reportedly wrote in the nude. Ben Franklin is said to have written in his bathtub. When he was working as a lawyer, John Grisham rose at 5 a.m., arrived at the office by 5:30, and then wrote a daily quota of 1 page per day.

When I was working a day job, my ritual was similar to Grisham’s. I would rise by 5 a.m., get the coffee going, then sit down at the dining room table and work until I had at least one page done. Then on to my day job.

Now that my day job has been offshored to China (thank you, globalization), and I find myself with much more free time, my writing ritual has inflated like a CEO’s salary. In addition to coffee I now do some Internet surfing before settling down to writing. Depending on my level of motivation, surf’s up anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. I also feel a strange compulsion to sharpen every pencil in the house before I hit the keyboard. I think it’s a leftover ritual from high school, when I would rise at 4 a.m. to do my homework. I never did any work at night, and still don’t. My pencil-sharpening compulsion isn’t nearly as time-consuming as the ritual of a friend of mine, who is a successful writer. A major procrastinator, she cleans her entire house before settling down to work. If the house is already clean, she’ll organize her drawers.

Here’s a little ode to ritual by MsWriteNow. And then tell us–what is your writing ritual, and how important is it to you in terms of getting your work done?

12 thoughts on “Writing rituals

  1. No rituals I can think of other than checking email before I start. Definitely a compulsive email checker…

  2. BK, I do emails, blogs, online newspapers, and also check my Google alerts, for starters. When I’m really procrastinating, I will check out Google Trends to see what’s going on there.

  3. I always read what I wrote the day before, scan my notes, and gather my thoughts (where are we in the writing and in what direction are we headed).

  4. My ritual consists of the following:

    1. Make my family aware that daddy is heading into the creativity zone, ask questions/ requests tasks now or prepare to be ignored for the next several hours
    2. Beverage and snack prep
    – if AM to Midday cup of coffee & roll or scone, etc.
    – if Evening or PM, herb tea or fermented beverage of the day
    3. sit in comfy wingback recliner
    4. place laptop on lap & log in
    5. kick back recliner, raising feet to full extended height
    6. put on headphones with good instrumental music
    7. turn to great goldfish on my left who are all staring at me
    8. remember I forgot to empty my bladder before sitting down
    9. get up, put laptop on floor, run to bathroom to upload waste products
    10. return to chair repeat steps 3-7
    11. open manuscript
    12. doze off for 10 to 30 minutes
    13. wake up and hope my family did not see me sleeping when I’m supposed to be working
    14. write next blockbuster novel.

    That’s how I roll babees!

  5. Morning hours are filled with ITW stuff. Siesta after lunch. Wake up and write until dinner. Close up shop until next day. Repeat.

  6. Unfortunately, I’m not very consistent, but when I can, I write from about 11 PM until midnight-ish. I don’t have any rituals beyond normal things like making sure the rest of my family is asleep and the TV is off. We have a 1 and a 2-year-old so it’s nearly impossible until after their bedtime.

    More necessary than any ritual, I’ve found that I must be able to decompress from the day’s events. My mind must be free to engage in the writing process or it’s a useless endeavor for me. Sometimes that simply doesn’t happen so I can’t write even if I force myself.

    I have found that I prefer the kitchen table which is furthest from the bedrooms and has the best Internet connection. It also frees me to get some chores done while writing – namely the dishes and laundry. I’ve currently got 2 polished chapters completed for my WIP with more in process.

  7. Gosh, sounds like there aren’t any other pencil-sharpeners, house cleaners, or other compulsive rituals in this group! But all of you have good routines. Coffee’s a must-have for me too, Jim. Once I’ve got that, I can write almost anywhere.

  8. I start with a workout, then deal with email/other miscellany, have lunch, and settle down to write for a few hours after that. I don’t fully wake up until noon, sadly- probably a residual from my years bartending.

  9. If I’m lucky, I get an egg sandwich with hot salsa, my husband’s creation. Java is usually involved…and required. And we talk about how to kill people…and get away with it. Ahhhh, real quality time. And after sloppy kisses of encouragement from my pooch Taco, I’m ready to lock and load for the day. Pure nirvana.

    If I’m unlucky, it must be laundry day.

  10. On a school day, I get back from dropping the boys off, go to the gym, come back, try to get started, get distracted by email, eat lunch, panic, write a bit more, rush to pick up kids by 3…then I am mum until after they go to bed and I sit down and write a bit more until I find myself nodding off, writing gibberish and falling off the chair. I need both tea and coffee to make anything happen. No rituals involved just fear induced writing attempts! I don’t bother with quotas but I do set goals for the week.

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