Though they've always existed, routines are particularly trending at the moment — take daily skincare regimens and targeted exercise routines, for example. We can attribute their popularity to many factors including their ability to discipline us, improve our quality of life and most importantly, give us the results we want.
Rituals work much the same in that they forge purpose-driven paths for us; they also help us realign our minds with our beliefs and prepare us to complete specific tasks. If you want to reach better results in your writing — whether it be to improve your practice or enjoy the process more — we've gathered some writing rituals you should try.
What’s a writing ritual?
Think of a writing ritual as a routine that prepares you to think your most creatively and write your most fruitfully. A writer might consider their environment, the state of the materials they'll be using and the time of day that is the most productive for them, among many other factors in order to produce their best work.
Famous writers with writing rituals
Many well-known writers practice writing rituals to maximize their productivity and production. Authors like Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, Stephen King and Charles Dickens each had their own idiosyncratic routines that encouraged their productivity.
Hemingway wrote in his bedroom every morning just after dawn, and would go for a daily half-mile swim immediately after. Angelou's routine took place in a hotel room with a dictionary, a deck of cards, a bottle of sherry and a Bible. King prefers reaching his strict six-page quota, wherever he sees fit, and Dickens was committed to a three-hour walk through the streets of London or along the countryside.
How do rituals improve the quality of your writing?
Rituals bring meaning to writing because they clear the mind and encourage creative thinking. When the circumstances are set up to encourage sound thinking, the mind is less likely to be blocked as it has new, galvanized avenues in which to think through. These rituals can work for anyone, but they're especially useful to those who write regularly.
They have the potential to alleviate writer's block, too. The brain is constantly looking for ideas and inspiration to pull from, so a mind that's free of distractions and a supportive work environment establishes a stronger connection between a thought and a page.
Defining your space
In order to create an effective writing ritual, it's critical that you define your space. Our environment plays a huge role in how we interact with the world — no matter what the interaction — so seizing control of our space allows you to tailor it for maximum productivity.
The same goes for the consideration of the tools we use and the time we choose to work. Regardless of the task, both factors influence how we move through the world. At work, I work best at my standing desk, but at home the couch is my best friend. And at work, I handle the small tasks first, whereas at home, I dive headfirst into my bigger ones.
7 writing rituals you should try, ASAP
If you're looking for a writing ritual, it's probably because you have a deadline to meet, a high expectation to reach or demanding quantitative writing goals. Set yourself up for success by testing out one of these low-stakes practices.
1. Free-write first.
A number of things can happen when you free-write before you write formally; you might clear your mind of all the thoughts that are blocking it, you might write a line or two that plants a seed for an even bigger piece or you might end up with a first draft that you can architect later.
2. Write more often.
Exercise your endurance by getting yourself into the habit of writing more. The more you write, the more you'll be able to, and the easier the transition will be when you're tasked to write longer works like a white paper, an essay or an entire novel.
3. Grab a snack or beverage.
Subtle movement while you work can be a great way to keep your engines oiled. Snacking on trail mix or sipping a large iced tea involves little to no thinking, but demands action from the body. When paralleled with writing, you'll communicate continuous engagement from your body, which consciously and subconsciously demands continuous engagement from the brain.
4. Get some fresh air.
Take a break in between your writing or incentivizing yourself with some fresh air to get you through. A quick stretch or an outdoor meditation session can break you in and prepare you for clearer concentration in the next round. Or, you can charge through your writing for a set amount of time, and enjoy a half-mile swim like Hemingway, afterward.
5. Play low tunes.
Ever notice how sound influences the feel of a room? Live DJs at clothing stores can transform the shopping experience from a silent walk-through to a full-blown party vibe, and elevator music makes the ride to the penthouse much more pleasant. In fact, study music is a whole genre in itself and includes anything from the relaxing sound of rain to Beethoven classics to keep your juices flowing calmly and creatively.
6. Write standing.
Sitting settles the body into a state of comfort, but that might not work best for you. Try standing at your desk or stepping a foot away from your screen to reread your writing. By changing your physical interaction with the writing process, you force your brain to experience it differently, too. Like reading your work aloud instead of to yourself, something new might stick out to you because you've changed the way you receive the work.
7. Work outside.
Instead of stuffing yourself in a cubicle, try hiding in plain-sight. Take your laptop outside, lean up against a tree and see what comes to you. By sharing yourself with the physical world and the world inside your brain, you may feel less pressure to perform a certain way in the latter. There's also tons of natural light, background noise and nature that might give you the nudge you need to climb deeper into the center of your mind.
Finding a writing ritual that works for you
Of the rituals we've provided, many of them can be combined or customized to fit your particular needs. Start by identifying what matters most to you and considering the factors that influence the way you work best.
What environments make you feel your most productive? Do you prefer standing or sitting? What would you like to have within arms-reach of you? Care for some noise? Let us know what writing rituals you practice — or any at that — in the comments below!