Starting a Writing Ritual- article for OWS-U Writing 101
Let’s face it, writing is tough. We have to get in a creative and productive mindset to write. With all the distractions and lack of time in our lives, it can be difficult to sit down and write. So how do we make our writing time more conducive? With a writing ritual. Having a writing ritual will help get you into writing mode, so you actually get words down when you sit down to write.
Set the right atmosphere. Shut the door to your writing room. This cuts out distractions and gives you much-needed privacy. Stephen King talks about writing with the door shut in his book, On Writing. Is your room lit the way you like it? Maybe instead of one really bright light, you like to light several lamps around the room. Perhaps you like it a little messy so it looks lived in rather than a cold, sterile environment. Or perhaps you think organized room, organized mind. Whatever works best for you. Pay attention to the details that make your writing space optimal.
Start with a favorite beverage. Brew a cup of coffee or tea or pour yourself a glass of wine. Get in the mood to write. Place your favorite snacks nearby, so you don’t have to leave if you get hungry. That way it’s one less distraction while you write.
Light some candles, incense, or essential oils. Smells like peppermint or lemon are good for sparking creativity. Do you need ambient noise or your favorite soundtrack playing in the background? Experiment with different styles of music to get you in the mood to write. Maybe you need a different playlist depending on if you’re writing a fight scene or a love scene. Adjust your music accordingly for the best results. But be sure to have your playlists ready before you sit down and write. You don’t want to have to spend time creating them when you’re supposed to be working on your WiP.
Just as in writing, we want to consider all five senses as we build our writing ritual. Each sense triggers a response in us to prepare us for writing or distract us and can create the perfect atmosphere for us to work. Make sure you have somewhere comfortable to sit, with enough support to keep you writing rather than worrying about your back. If you are a tactile person, consider writing by hand using a nice pen. This can help get your thoughts flowing the way the ink flows onto the paper. Keep the five senses in mind as you begin writing to bring each scene to life.
Another helpful step is to determine goals for your writing time. Some people also time their sessions, breaking it up into sprints and breaks. Whether your goal is to write for a certain amount of time, like two hours, or to write a specific amount of words, like 1500 words, setting a goal benefits you in several ways. First, it gives you something tangible to work towards, rather than simply staring at a blinking cursor. Secondly, it helps to positively reinforce your habit of writing when you meet your goals. Make sure to do small things to reward yourself whenever you meet a goal. And while writing at the same time every day helps to form a habit, it’s not necessary with a writing ritual. Work with your own schedule and preferences to determine when to write. It may be best to do first thing if you’re a morning person, but if you have young kids, it may be easiest for you to write in the evening after they go to bed and you have a little quiet time to yourself.
Perform your ritual in a specific order each time. Doing your ritual in the same order and same way will make it more effective. And following these steps will get you in the right mindset to write. It’s a way of conditioning ourselves to write.
Now that you’ve got the ritual in place, you may ask yourself what’s next? If you’re new to writing, you may have a great idea for a story, but no idea of how or where to start. Thankfully Our Write Side has you covered. OWS-University is rolling out writing masterclasses this February.
Writing 101 covers the basics of a story, how to develop characters, outlining and story structures to choose, how to choose the right POV, how to build setting, the principle of show, don’t tell, utilizing the five senses, how to create a writing routine, and when and what to research. Everything you need to get started writing. The course is broken down into weekly lessons. There are four written lessons, breaking down the materials in easy to digest chunks. Four video lectures complete with presentations for easy to follow learning. And four weekly live chats for any questions students have for the instructor answered in real time. This covers a month of learning so you can begin writing that novel. Check out this and the other great classes being offered by OWS-U today.
J.K. Allen is the course instructor for Writing 101. She received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia has had multiple short stories published and is currently working on a Young Adult Fantasy series. She can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.
She is the lead poetry editor for Catterfly Publishing, an artist and illustrator for OWS Creative Studios, and a lead team member for our university.
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