You Can Change Your Writing Ritual
by Laura Yeager
A writing ritual is something we feel we must experience in order to
write. For example, some writers MUST smoke cigarettes while theyíre
writing, or they wonít pen a word. Or some must play music while
All of us have writing rituals such as these, and all of us believe
that they're set in stone. We think we must go through our sacred
ritual steps in order to produce something brilliant, or at least,
something half-way decent. But little do most writers know, writing
rituals can be changed.
First, let's take a look at some of the common writing rituals.
Probably the most common ritual has to do with the time a writer
feels she needs to write. I like to write in the daytime from
1:00-3:00 or from 8:00-10:00. These times correspond to the times
that my child is away at pre-school or is asleep. A writer friend of
mine is a middle-of-the-night writer. You, on the other hand, might
like to write at the crack of dawn.
The next ritual has to do with the place a person writes. I like to
write in a relatively secluded placeĖmy home office. But some
writers need to go out in public to do their work. Coffee shops
attract a lot of writers. You might like to write outdoors in a park
or on your terrace.
Next, letís consider a writerís writing tools. Some writers canít
write a word unless theyíre using their "special" pen or pencil. Or
they might like to write on a specific kind of paper. I usually
compose on a computer, using a word processor. I know a guy who
still writes everything on a typewriter. What do you do?
Another consideration is sound while writing. I prefer complete
quiet. My writer friend likes to write while listening to music,
specifically Sondheim. Some writers might enjoy playing a babbling
brook sound effect CD.
Now, what is one eating or drinking while writing? It might be
potato chips or chocolate. I donít eat while I write, but I must be
consuming a large glass of ice water, or I canít get my words to
flow. Many writers like to gulp coffee while composing.
Do you have a special writing outfit? Some writers canít compose
without their magical baseball cap or special sweatshirt. I know a
lot of writers who like loose clothing, nothing to distract them
while theyíre pounding away on the computer.
And what do you do before you write? Pray? Meditate? Do yoga? Smoke
pot? Drop acid, or drink a martini? I go into my writing sessions
cold, with little preparation.
So there are some of the basic writing rituals, and as I said above,
most people believe theyíre set in stone. I want to tell you that
Recently, I decided to turn on some classical music during a writing
session. I thought that Iíd never be able to write a word while the
music was playing, but I thought Iíd try it anyway. At first, the
music was distracting. But then, I began to get used to it. By the
end of the session, the music was inspiring me as I was creating.
This made me think back to a time Iíd done this before. When I first
started writing in the 1980's I always wrote using pen and paper,
writing it all down by hand. I didnít like composing on a
typewriter; in fact, I couldnít do it. Then, the computer came in.
It seemed to me that I could save a lot of time if I could learn to
compose right on the computer instead of writing by hand and then
typing it into my PC. So I set out to teach myself how to compose
directly on the computer. It was strange at first, but eventually, I
mastered the task.
Yes, writing rituals can be changed. Itís important to know this
because your rituals might even be harming you.
For example, if you feel you must devour something such as
chocolate, you might be packing on the unwanted pounds as you write.
Itís important to know that substitutions can be made. You might try
chewing sugarless gum. It will seem strange at first, but youíll get
used to it. I can almost guarantee it.
You may have to change your writing rituals. For instance,
your hours might be changed from first shift to third shift. So now,
instead of writing at night, youíre working. You can get used
to writing in the day. Take heart.
I must say, it was surprising to me when I realized that I could
change my writing rituals. Itís good to know this. You just might
need to change them in the future.
Remember, there will be an adjustment period, but given a little
time and energy, you can create new rituals for yourself.
I wish you luck on your writing journey, however it takes shape.
Donít let your writing ritual control you.
You control the writing ritual.
Laura Yeager writes literary fiction and nonfiction for many kinds
of markets. Her nonfiction frequently appears in The Writer
Magazine, bp Magazine, and at authormagazine.org. She also works as
a professional blogger and speechwriter. She teaches online fiction
writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop. Laura is currently looking for
an agent for a middle-grade novel series.