What is a writing ritual?
A writing ritual is any repeated action you do before or during your writing sessions. It can be as simple or complex as you’d like, and it’s usually personal and specific to your own needs. One thing might work great for you but doesn’t do the trick for someone else. Generally, though, the goal of a writing ritual is to get you in the mood to write and create constructive writing habits.
Creating your own writing rituals is a personal experience, but these suggestions will give you inspiration for effective, creativity-sparking rituals you can implement in your writing life.
Writing rituals can be great, until you rely on them too heavily. If you need the perfect conditions in order to write (midday, slightly overcast, exactly 71 degrees F), odds are you won’t be able to actually sit down and write very often. Remember the ultimate goal of your ritual: inspiring you to write!
Things to consider
Time of day: While I did say that you shouldn’t rely on “perfect conditions'' for writing, designating a specific time as Writing Time can help you form habits and stick to a writing schedule. If you can, try to write during that time daily to form the habit quicker.
Space: You don’t need a specific place to write. You don’t have to go to the little coffee shop on the corner or stay in your bedroom every time you want to write. But it’s helpful to figure out what spatial conditions make you most productive. While I was on my college campus, I loved to write in the food court on the weekends when it was usually pretty empty. I can’t go now because I’m home for break, but I can try to recreate those conditions by going to a quiet public place like a library or cafe. Or if you have to stay home, there are a bunch of ambient soundscape videos on YouTube that simulate any place you could think of, real or imagined. (There are some great Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings ones if you’re into fantasy!). Play one and trick your brain into thinking you’re in your perfect writing environment.
Prompts: Start your writing session with a writing prompt! If you’re stressing about the big project you’re working on, take a few minutes to get in the flow with something more low commitment. You might even stumble across an idea for a new story. You can find thousands of writing prompts online, but you can easily create your own, too. Just look around your space and pick an interesting object, then describe it. Try to be as vivid as possible or think about what that object’s backstory might be and write it down. It seems simple, but imagery and descriptions can lead you to some great stories.
Writing Sprints: Try your hand at a writing sprint to prepare you for “long distance” writing. Similar to writing prompts, writing sprints are quick, low-commitment exercises for getting you into a writing flow. Set a timer for one, five, or ten minutes, and don’t let your pen leave the page (or your fingers leave the keyboard). Pair this exercise with a writing prompt if you need some help jumpstarting your creativity.
Pavlov Technique: Remember how the psychologist Pavlov trained dogs to crave food any time they heard a bell ring? Come up with some triggers of your own to train your brain to crave writing! It could be anything: chewing a certain flavor of gum, drinking a certain tea, or burning a specific scented candle. I find that the best triggers are linked to taste or smell but pick any stimulus that works for you. (Playing a specific song would work too, just try not to get sick of it!). Once you pick a trigger, remember to do it each time you sit down to write and only when you want to write—that way you’ll always associate it with writing.
Start developing your own writing rituals to help you create healthy writing habits that will make you more productive and excited to get writing! It might take some trial and error, and you may even find that you don’t want to use one, which is completely fine as well. Do whatever works best for you to put you in the mood to do your favorite thing: write!