The topic of the month here at The Writer's Workout is WRITING RITUALS. A writing ritual is something you do every time you write. Is there something you do either to get you in the mood to write? Or is there something you do while writing to keep your creative juices going? If so, that's part of your writing ritual.
Since this is our big topic of the month, we thought we'd interview a few writers and learn about their writing rituals. We talked to writers Renata Pavrey and Srivalli Rekha. Let's see what they had to say about their writing rituals!
WW: Do you have a writing ritual? Why or why not?
RP: Yes, I have a writing ritual, although it isn’t fixed. I am a nutritionist by profession, so most of my writing happens at the end of the day and on weekends. A ritual helps me to shift focus from nutrition work to creative writing, and get tasks completed.
SR: Not a ritual per se, but I write the outline on paper before starting any story. It’s mostly a jumbled mass of words but helps me streamline my thoughts.
WW: How has your writing/writing life changed since you started or stopped your writing ritual? Do you think the quality of your writing has changed since starting your ritual?
RP: Like I said, I’m not from a literature/journalism/writing background. I have two science degrees in nutrition and dietetics. I started a blog called Curious Cat four years ago post an accident, and followed it up with a book blog called Tomes and Tales. These two ventures marked my foray into writing on public platforms. I didn’t have specific writing rituals at the time and would write as I felt like it. In the last two years, I have been sending work to publishing houses. This was when I adopted writing rituals to focus more seriously on content and time devoted to writing.
The quality of my writing has definitely improved, because rituals make you more focused – they help you set goals, prepare you to begin tasks, and ensure you work on them diligently and see them till the end. They build creativity and diminish writer’s block, because your mind is challenged all the time.
SR: Making notes of important points from research and writing a rough outline has given me more control over the structure of my story. I still leave some of it to the characters, but knowing how to present the story has improved the narration.
WW: What does a good ritual look like for you? What does yours look like?
RP: A good ritual for me would be something that warms up the mind-body coordination. I do a 20-minute yoga session to prepare myself mentally and physically. Sometimes you’re thinking too much and too fast, and the hands can’t keep up to type or write in tandem. I start with free writes, to sync the pace of my thoughts and words. On a busy work day, I try to write at least hundred words a day – drabbles work beautifully; you can write a range of subjects, genres, forms and languages.
If I can’t think of any stories, I write book reviews, or interview authors for my blog, or personal essays based on something that happened during the day. After every hour of writing, I get off the chair to do some stretches. I go to the kitchen to fill my water bottle, play with the cats, flip through books on the shelves, water the plants, make a cup of tea – a short five-minute break every hour to get the neurons charged up again. I set a number of poems and stories to write in a week and month, and maintain a diary just for my writing goals. Plans are made at the start of the month, and revisited each week to see how much on track I am. I also award myself little prizes – for every publisher that accepts my story/poem/artwork, I treat myself to a new book or piece of stationery.
SR: A good writing ritual is the one that works for the writer and gets the juices flowing in the brain. It gives confidence and comfort, which are necessary for a writer (or any artist). Mine is rather simple and something I can follow almost anywhere.
WW: How did you come up with your writing ritual? Did it take you a long time to come up with it?
RP: The writing rituals happened organically. During the lockdown, I met peer groups at various book discussions, poetry spoken word events, author meets. I did several online courses from historical fiction to contemporary Russian literature, a Diploma in English literature and German poetry. I was also working on a poetry book (that released this November), along with submission calls for many publishers around the world. I hadn’t thought about writing rituals while using them in the beginning, but I realized how organized they made my work and continued with the practice. Meeting people with similar goals and rituals also helps – we work together and support one another along the way. I initially had a favorite writing tee, but now I work without it. I write poetry by hand, and have colored pens for different topics to find things more easily. Ultimately, it’s all about organization and making the most of available time.
SR: I’ve always been a note-maker. I took notes in college, wrote important points on papers when studying for exams, and so on. I started by writing the smaller stories on paper and typing them. When my stories got longer, I realized that having an outline on paper is a better option.
WW: If you don't have a writing ritual, what do you do to keep yourself writing? If you do have a writing ritual, do you think it gets you writing more than you normally would?
RP: It does get more writing accomplished. A ritual gives me something to look forward to, so even after a tiring day or a period of illness, I know I can write a haiku or 3 sentences about the book I’m currently reading. They help me pace out submission calls, so I have one or two stories each month to send to publications, three reviews for my book blog, and free days for non-specific writing. Since most of my writing happens at night, I have found rituals extremely helpful in getting work done in a limited amount of time. Without a ritual, it would be like my blogs – I love to write, but will do so when I have a story/when there’s enough time/when the weather is perfect/etc. With a focus on publishing and professional writing, I have found rituals important for more serious writing goals.
SR: Theoretically speaking, yes. Having a ritual does help. While I manage micro and flash fiction without writing outlines, short stories can get tough, especially if I haven’t written in a while or still have the lingering effects of writer’s block. My writing ritual doesn’t help me write more, but it helps me write better (or so I think).
Renata Pavrey has been widely published in anthologies from Ghost Orchid Press, Black Ink Fiction, Wine Women & Wellbeing, EIV Publishing and Coin-Operated Press, among others. Her poems, essays, reviews, artwork and stories have been featured in journals, magazines, zines, books and podcasts. Her debut book was a poetry collection titled Eunoia. Renata is a nutritionist and Pilates teacher, an Odissi dancer, marathon runner and linguaphile. She reads across genres and languages, and her writing spans from prose to poetry in fiction and non-fiction. She can be reached @writerlylegacy on Twitter.
Srivalli Rekha is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer. She got a degree in MBA and MA English Literature and chose to become a writer and a poet instead of a corporate professional.