Writing Rituals

My favorite quote about writing comes from the late journalist, Gene Fowler. He said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper (or a computer screen) until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

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Often people come up to me at book signings and say something like, “I want to write a book.” To which I will say, “Have you written it on paper or on a computer yet?” Normally, the answer will be something like, “No, but I have the whole book in my head.”

Here’s what I know. To be a writer, you have to write. Everyone has a story in their head somewhere. The difference between writers and other people, is that writers are absolutely driven to write that story…whether it’s for themselves, for their families, for the masses, or simply for posterity. Writers have to write.

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One of the tools that many writers use, are something called “writing rituals”.  A writing ritual is a deliberate, conscious, repetitive behavior that has personal meaning and helps the writer get into a good mental place for writing.

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The point of using rituals, is to allow the writer to become more creative and productive. Going through the writing rituals each time, signals to the brain that it’s time to write and hopefully will allow the writer to get to that creative place where the words flow easily.

Examples of writing rituals might be things like:

*Writing at the same time each day when you feel the most creative or productive.

*Clearing the clutter from your writing space before you begin.

*Setting a timer so you will write for a certain amount of time.

*Turning on a certain song or kind of music before or while you write.

*Writing in the same place each time.

*Saying a prayer or meditating before writing.

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Many famous writers had or have writing rituals.

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Charles Dickens needed complete quiet to write and had a second door built on the outside of his writing study to give him an extra layer between himself and the rest of his household. He also would take a walk before he wrote.

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A number of other famous authors…Mark Twain, George Orwell, Edith Wharton, and Truman Capote did their writing in bed on legal pads. They felt they wrote better in the horizontal position.

John Cheever liked to write in his underwear.

Ernest Hemingway liked to write while standing.

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Maya Angelou would check into a hotel room with a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry and would work from 7:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon.

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John Milton would read from the Bible for half an hour every morning before he began writing.

Stephen King writes every single day of the year without exception. He has a daily writing quota of 2000 words and rarely allows himself to quit until he’s reached his goal.

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One of my favorite writers, Kate DiCamillo, always has lots of coffee and a string of festive lights on in her writing room.

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Three years ago, my husband and I visited the home in Mansfield, Missouri of author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie Books. We took a guided tour of her home and I was looking forward to seeing where she did her writing.

I was shocked to find that she wrote all of her books while sitting in the living room in an oak chair with very wide wood arms that her husband had built for her. She didn’t write her first book until she was 64 years old, and she wrote them all on legal pads in that chair.

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I asked a few of my prolific writer friends if they have any writing rituals.

Fred Funk told me that he writes all of his books longhand while kicked back in his recliner.

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Randy Schmidt said his best writing time is between midnight and 6:00 a.m. He says it works best in the summer when he isn’t teaching school.

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C.M. Healy likes to write late at night with the TV on. He said his years of teaching school taught him to block out the ambient noise but somehow the noise from the TV helps to keep him focused.

Becky Ross Michael, says she uses positive reinforcement and rewards herself with snacks when she gets a certain amount of writing finished!

My personal writing rituals involve a lot of coffee and a quiet house. I also light a candle and read through the Bible verse that I keep near my computer monitor:

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in they sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

As my friend and award-winning author, Jan Sikes, told me recently about writing rituals, “Everyone has to find what works for them!”


2 thoughts on “Writing Rituals”

  1. Excellent compilation of rituals from numerous authors plus yourself. Will definitely share some of this with some older students for their Career Day.

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