Rituals of Writing: Developing Creative Habits that serve
Because I believe a good birth metaphor lands a point about creativity more often than not, I liken writing rituals and rhythms to the comfort measures and coping mechanisms we use during (birth) labor.
I also believe that creative space is sacred space and that when we recognize this, we can harness the power of rhythms and rituals that support our creative process. Side note: Beethoven is rumored to have sprinkled water around his flat before he composed music.
Benefits of Creative Habits and Rituals
Establishing creative rituals can offer us a number of benefits. One, the brain responds positively to routine, which can remove the need to constantly make new decisions about our process/behavior, help us focus, alleviate nervous jitters.
Writing habits and rituals can act as conscious and intentional openings + closings of our creative space.
Creative rituals can also get us into our bodies and the present moment so we are more available and clearer for our creativity to come through us. Ritual creates a consistent container in which your creativity can be invited in to work its magic.
Creative habits and rituals can establish and fortify what I call the Creative Cave, a sheltered contained place, free of distractions, where you can work directly with your creativity unimpeded and uninterrupted.
At its simplest, a creative habit or ritual can have a:
beginning: something you do before you write
middle: something you do while you write
end: something you do intentionally to complete your writing work before initiating a new activity
These can be as elaborate or simple as you desire. The point is to find the unique habits and rituals that support your creative process.
Act One: Opening your creative space
A movement activity—such as yoga, running, taking a walk, or dancing. Writing is actually an embodied practice that requires our full attention, focus and presence. A ritual that gets us into our bodies can be a supportive way to open space for our creative work. Getting into our bodies can also assist us in getting out of mental spaces that do not serve us—worry/preoccupation about the past or the future, feelings of resistance, distraction, and the like.
Time in nature—getting connected to nature—creativity herself—in some way can also be a supportive way to slow down and enter creative space. This may be sitting on your porch listening to birdsong, taking three deep breaths with your feet in the dirt, looking out the window at the snow sparkling outside, or taking a walk.
Time spent in pleasure and enjoyment—especially if we have any resistance or nervousness come up before entering creative space, doing something we enjoy and find pleasure in can train our brains to connect these activities to the creative process that follows. Activities that help us feel confident and effective can also be supportive.
Make/buy tea—if you’re at a coffeeshop, part of your opening ritual (in addition to the act of getting yourself there, which is part of the ritual as well) may be to order your favorite drink. If you’re at home, it might be the ritual of brewing your favorite green or herbal tea.
Meditate—connecting to your breath, inviting in a compassionate witness, shifting to a calm state, envisioning the outcome of your creative time, connecting to your creativity, meeting your creative genius or other allies, slowing down…all of these and other aspects of meditation can be used to open your creative space in a powerful and supportive way.
Mantra—you may repeat a meaningful mantra to yourself that helps you ground into your intentions for writing. You may also read your WHY for writing this book, or your rave review, or something that connects you to your greater purpose and service in writing this book. (We talk about all of these things in my book coaching work.) You might also write yourself permission slips: what permission do you give yourself today as it relates to your writing process?
Clear your workspace—some people have to clean the house before they enter into creative space. Declutter, put away distractions, turn off the phone and any alerts on any devices, hang a note on the door, put on your noise-cancelling headphones.
Warm up writing—you may write as a way to clear the workspace of your mind. Maybe you need to blow of some steam, or express what is on your mind or heart, maybe your inner critic needs to get out her piece so that she can sit quietly as you begin the work of your book project.
Another creative activity—you might engage in another short creative activity that you enjoy—doodling, drawing, painting, gardening, etc. This could serve as a creative warm-up for your writing process. I suggest giving this a clear time-frame so you know when you are done and ready to move into writing.
(For more inspiration, check out the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry)
Whatever you choose, make sure this is not an act of resistance to your writing process, but actually serves as a powerful portal into your creative space. It doesn’t have to be elaborate at all—it can be as simple as pouring a glass of water and turning your cell phone to silent. It can be as simple as taking one conscious slow breath as you open up your computer.
As far as rhythms, this is movement toward routine and regularity in your creative process as well. Such as writing at the same time or in the same place each time. These can also be very powerful cues to your inner creative that it is time to come out and play.
What will you do to get started? Do you know what already works for you? Do you feel called to explore one or two options from these examples (or something not on the list)?
Act Two: During the Creative Process
During the writing process itself, you might also consider any rituals, rhythms or intentions here. With what tools will you write? Will you write anything by hand? All by computer? Will you dictate? Will you use a program like Scrivener to help you create your drafts? What will you do when you hit a snag—will you shake it out by literally shaking though your body, will you buzz your lips, will you stand up and stretch? When will you take breaks? How will you ensure your space is distraction free?
Act Three: Closing rituals
How and when will you know you’re done? By the clock, by your progress, by your felt sense of completion? What will you do to close your creative space? Will you simply close up the computer? Will you read what you wrote? Will you look at what your intentions for the next day are? Will you take a deep breath? Will you get up and celebrate? Will you go make lunch? Or eat a piece of chocolate? Will you track your word count progress? Will you leave one space and go to another? Will you do any of the activities offered as ways to open your creative space?
Developing your Creative Habits
If you are curious about your own creative rituals, I encourage you to test things out. Try writing in different places, or at different times of day, or lengths of time. Go on a scouting mission to learn what kind of creative container works best for you.
I talk about writing rituals – and so much more – with the authors I support in writing their books. We also talk about how to fit your writing into your busy life in a way that actually works. So you can move ahead. If you are feeling the call to write your book, I offer a complimentary discovery session so your can learn more about my book coaching services.