“Be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert
I have a writing ritual. First I meditate, read and enjoy a cup of coffee, and begin my writing session with some practice or writing exercises, all of which takes about half an hour. Then I work on an actual writing project. My ritual is more effective when I write in a coffeehouse or bookstore. Hopefully, there is an outlet for my laptop’s power cord, so the writing can go on for hours. At home there are too many distractions, playing with the dogs, more reading, something completely stupid on TV or housecleaning (yuck!).
Until I read the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, edited by Mason Currey, I didn’t know how interested I was in the rituals of others like me, the creatives of the world. Now I cannot get enough of reading books on the rituals of others or about creating rituals of my own. Right now I am reading a great book, The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income (Before 8AM). Perhaps there is a way to make my current ritual more effective, or not, even though I like my ritual as it is.
Daily Rituals speaks to the wide variety in the rituals of 161 artists of all types, writers, painters, architects, composers, and more. Some wrote wearing only one color (Dickinson only white, Poe only black), some wrote in bed (Simone de Beauvoir), some standing up, some naked, and some stone drunk or with blazing fingers, high on amphetamines. I see myself in some of these artists, and see utter insanity in others. I am envious of many for their ability to produce miraculous amounts of work, often completed very early in the day. I am a night person and, though I have a love affair with writing, I’ve never written well before noon, and I have never felt particularly prodigious. I would love to be both a morning person and prodigious. I have been fighting both of these most of my life. (When will I just give up?)
It leaves me wondering what it is about rituals that fascinates me so. I am a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of woman, a free-spirited, do what you want when you want to do it girl. I am not the type who would see herself as a ritual-oriented writer, or person. But when I really think about it, I am wrong. I have rituals. A ritual is a routine, repeated over and over before a significant activity. I am also quite a planner, and I have goals, both of which may require routines.
Routines give your brain context. For example, you tell your brain it’s time for sleep when you lie down, turn out the light, and then you can go to sleep. When I do my writing ritual, I tell my mind, “Hey, you, we’re going to write now, so let’s get to it.” I am set up for success, not hours of writers block. Now, I am not completely immune to writers block, but it is not often and is easily resolved. Any time you do something at the same time, same way, same place, what have you, you train your brain what you want it to do. If you keep that up every day for a month, and continue thereafter, you should have little trouble coming up with something to write. That doesn’t mean you won’t like what you write, but you will write. Fix it later. You can’t fix it if you don’t first write it.
Do you have any rituals? Is there anything in this post that speaks to you? Please comment below.