by Kelley Lindberg
Writing rituals are the little tricks we use to talk ourselves into writing. They can take any number of forms: a certain type of music playing in the background, a particular pen, a favorite table at the coffee shop, a symbolic toy or figurine perched by the keyboard.
Like a baseball player’s lucky socks, writing rituals can give us a strange sense of detachment, as if the results won’t really be our fault. Or they can settle our fears, doing the wordly equivalent of a yoga centering pose to help us channel our energy into our work.
A writing ritual can help train our mind to focus quickly, developing almost a “muscle memory” to drop us into our writing zone fast.
On the other hand, writing rituals can become superstitions, or crutches, that paralyze us if they’re missing, giving us handy excuses to delay writing (or avoid it completely).
They can, if we’re not careful, begin to flutter around us like small drifts of dead leaves, distracting us from the very thing they’re supposed to be helping us do.
So I try to avoid letting writing rituals find me. I confess to preferring to write on my computer than by hand, and in my own home office than out in public, yet I’m writing these words in ink on a small notepad while sitting elbow to elbow with strangers on an airplane somewhere over the Grand Canyon.
As a freelance writer, I’ve learned that deadlines eliminate the luxury of rituals. Magazine editors don’t really care if your muse wasn’t feeling especially pampered. Business clients don’t understand lucky pens and the problems they can cause when they go missing.
So if you’re finding that your writing rituals are beginning to clutter your writing time rather than focusing it, try shaking up your routine.
Go somewhere new to write. Try a new background song. Write without a safety net. Freedom from rituals may be just the new charge of energy your writing needs.