You sit at your laptop, and you’re ready to go. You set aside some time to write for maybe 30 minutes or an hour. You have your ideas for what you want to write about, you’re in a quiet solitary space, and you’ve told everyone to bugger off…now go!…
…Not quite. Now that you’re actually sitting at you computer and it’s time to get down to business, it’s a little difficult to get the juices flowing. You’ve not really in the mood, but it’s your writing time, and you have to write something. So how do you get the juices flowing?
It sounds like you need a ritual.
Ritual is different than routine. Routine is the time and day, how often and for how long. I write every morning, five days a week, between 7 a.m. And 8:30 a.m. Sometimes I write in the evenings. My partner writes every Friday afternoon for his posts that go out the following week. That is a routine.
Ritual is the activity or ceremony you do before you write that prepares you for the work ahead.
The ritual is a consistent type of behavior surrounding that routine. Here, for example, is Stephen Pressfield’s ritual, from his book The War of Art.
…On my thesaurus is my lucky canon that my friend Bob Versandi gave me from Morro Castle, Cuba. I point it toward my chair, so it can fire inspiration at me. I say my prayer, which is the Invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translated by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, which my dear mate Paul Rink gave me and which sits near my shelf with the cuff links that belonged to my father and my lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae. It’s about ten thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. (From The War of Art).
Your ritual doesn’t have to be this involved. (Believe it or not, this is the abridged version of Stephen’s ritual). Mine is fairly simple. I brew coffee and drink it while reading from a book or author blog that inspire me. (Some examples include, Jeff Goins’ You Are A Writer, Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook, Chuck Wendig’s blog, and Chris Guillebeau’s blog, where he occasionally talks about writing).
Reading about writing always makes me want to write, so I do it to get the juices flowing. It takes about ten minutes before I get so excited about writing that I set to work.
A ritual is like a good warm-up before the workout. You don’t go into the work out with lukewarm blood and a resting heart rate. You warm the blood and the muscles so you can perform better and prevent injury.
Your ritual can have talisman’s that are symbols of your superpower (like Stephen’s), or it can be a brief exercise to get you inspired (like mine). Anything, as long as it gets you excited, motivated, and inspired.
I’d love to hear about your rituals in the comments below.