Rituals and Tools

Thursday Postcard

Writers don’t need much…or do they?

A pen, some paper…a computer…power…coffee… Shouldn’t writers be able to work anywhere, at any time?

In theory, yes. 

But Mason Currey’s entertaining book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work shows the sheer variety of things writers have relied on to get going. Pipes, cigarettes, nudity, a special bathrobe, apples, sex, long walks, impersonal hotel rooms, exercise, Diet Coke, certain books, certain people, complete solitude…AND SO ON.

Rituals can help focus your mind and notice where you’re working and what you’re environment is like. They can stimulate ideas. 

Turning off the TV, lighting a candle, taking out your special notebook, turning off your phone—those can all be triggers that tell yourself you’re going to write.

Rituals can also help you feel that the project is manageable. If you know you can do the first step (lighting the candle, say), then you do that. Then the next step is easier.

Sometimes I put headphones on and listen to binaural beats, or alpha brain wave music. It may or may not change how my brain’s operating, but it does tell me that focusing is important enough to me that I’m doing what it takes.

It always works to help me write, because I do it only when I’m serious about focusing.

Rituals can also help you shift your environment, or change how you feel about your environment.

There’s a hazy border between rituals and tools. I put a voice memo recorder in my pocket before I walk to work, and the act of doing that tells me that I am ready to record ideas. 

I’m more likely to use it when I put it in my pocket rather than just leaving it there all the time, so I take it out at night and put it next to my watch, then put it back in my coat pocket the next day.

It’s worth taking a look at your main writing locations and checking if there’s anything in them that triggers the desire to work.

Even more important, check if they’re full of random non-project-related stuff or even negative triggers, things that bum you out or make you feel tired.

Clearing your desk might be a good ritual—it lets you focus on a single project.

Turning off your phone protects you from interruptions.

Meditating for 15 minutes might reduce your anxiety enough that you can get in and write that difficult section you’ve been avoiding.

Rituals can make you write more often, and it has been scientifically proven that writing more often reduces stress.

(Actually, I just made that up. But here is a real statistic. A study at the University of Sussex showed that reading for six minutes reduces stress by 68%). 

I’d love to know about your rituals and tools. Just hit ‘reply’ and send me a note!