The Value of Ritual for Freelance Writers

by Anne Wayman

ritualFor who knows what reason I got to thinking about ritual this morning. Probably it was because I rather unconsciously changed mine. I usually spend half an hour or so in what I call, using a highly technical term, ‘spiritual stuff.’

Currently my ritual means watching a 15 minute or less video – yeah I paid for You Tube Red to get rid of the ads, sigh – and then using my mala beads (any way of tracking counting works) to count out what I’m grateful for.

Anyway, this morning I found myself at the computer planning the day and then doing my morning ritual. Maybe because it was a change it seemed to work really well that way. I may try it again tomorrow.

Writing and ritual

It’s my experience that I use small ritual acts to move into my writing space. In my case I do want to check my email before I start – I take pleasure in weeding out and unsubscribing from stuff I don’t want, replying to email from one friend, and maybe reading/acting on political blogs. Today I timed all that and it took just over 20 minutes which is an acceptable amount of time for me.


 
Another ritual arrived with my Tuxedo cat, Dudley. After he decided it was okay to live here with his partner Toulouse, he started following me into my office, jumping on the standing desk and insisting on some cuddles and petting. If I ignore him he reaches out and gently pats me on my shoulder. Who can resist!

I also suspect after all these years, that just sitting at my computer also triggers the writing.

A shower or a nap

When I get stuck writing something, I usually just switch to another project. That’s often enough to spark some new thinking. If I get really stuck, I’ll take a shower or a nap.

The hot water pouring over me does something to open me up to creativity. I’ve had ideas, inspiration, and even solved major writing problems under hot water.

Naps can also work, as long as I keep them short – say around half an hour. I usually wake up refreshed and the ideas and writing start flowing again. Much more than that and I sleep more deeply and the nap can extend for a couple of hours. Sometimes I’ll have an idea when I wake up then, but mostly I feel like I’ve wasted some time.

Almost anything can work

When I began my writing career and was still drafting on legal tablets I’d start each morning sharpening a couple of pencils. Even when I switched to typing out drafts, for several months I sharpened pencils anyway, because the action and the smell set my mental stage for writing.

Rituals change

Over time my writing rituals change. When I was crewing on small boats in the South Pacific, I’d taken writing materials, but made no promises to myself or anyone else about what, if anything I’d write. One morning, on the Vava’u, in the Kingdom of Tonga, I woke up wanting to write.I walked to the coffee shop, spread out my legal tablets and wrote, skipping every other line so I could edit.

It was then I realize that coffee and writing may be my main ritual. Now it’s home brewed cappuccinos, a real ritual with all the fuss and great coffee.

Obviously, a major change for me was moving from typewriters to computers and adding the ‘net when it arrived. Each of those and my smart phone, and my moves and my cats, all somehow get worked into the rituals making it easier to write.

Writing itself is a ritual!

I just realized that the act of writing is also a ritual. I watch the words appear on the screen, sometimes almost automatically, sometimes with great difficulty and much pacing (another ritual).

Rituals seem to be good to me. I suspect they are to you as well.

Tell us about your writing rituals in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Samantha Saint March 13, 2017 at 1:38 am

Awww!
You just hit the bull’s eye with this post. There is an interesting pattern: the less people can control something – the more rituals they add before, during, or after this deal. It is spreaded between sailors, sportsmen and writers too. I hope, one day I can do great research about all these rituals!

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Anne Wayman March 28, 2017 at 10:55 am

that’s an interesting observation

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ali March 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

I was looking for something like that. Every tools is impotent, This will help me a lot. Thanks for sharing.

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Melanie Ewan March 9, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Yes! I just started a new ritual:
4 mins meditation
4 mins stretch
4 mins exercise
4 mins write.
For the writing, I generally have already thought of a question I was to focus on. I find that simply by writing for a set amount of time I am inspired to continue to write. On ‘writing days’ I would then make a pot of tea, jump into articles or podcasts on my list that inspire me, and have my journal always at hand.

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Anne Wayman March 28, 2017 at 8:07 am

I like it… thanks for sharing!

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Sandy Kenrick March 9, 2017 at 10:24 am

I relate to this so much! The thing that helps me the most when I find myself drifting or unable to put a sentence together, is to change the scenery. Sometimes it can be from my desk to the couch, and other times I need to go to an offsite venue. I love starting off my writing by mapping out my day in my diary. As I complete my projects, I tick it off in the margin. This is probably something I picked up as a banker who had to manage her diary effectively. Thanks for the share!
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Anne Wayman March 28, 2017 at 8:08 am

I find planning my day works pretty well for me too.

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