Stories abound about eccentric authors who could only write if doing so in the buff, or accompanied by some specific knick-knacks, a special branded pen, or two family dogs asleep beside them.
Now psychologists say these odd habits or rituals serve a purpose. A successful writer will form their own core habits around rituals and routines which signify the movement into writing.
Writing Rituals (or Writuals) – What Purpose?
Psychologists studying artists and other creatives have recognised that the processes involved with creativity are, at times, disorganised and chaotic: creatives live in a process that is frenetic one hour, and requires times of quiet and deep thinking in another.
Our rituals of needing the correct pencils, the right paper, a mascot or accompanying pet, certain music in the background, certain routines we go through before sitting down to our desk… When we set these in place, we are exerting control over a creative process that is unpredictable and in some ways, uncontrollable.
We also are notifying our minds that we are now in control, and it’s time to work. That’s why I believe it’s a good idea, if possible, to have a defined writing habitat or environment, solely for ourselves. This place, where we write, allows us to set out things and keep them set out, ready to write.
Psychologist Susan K Perry, PhD, studied 76 award winning or bestselling novelists and poets, and asked them to describe their creative process. Nearly all of them, she says, admitted to having some sort of routine. (She also discusses rituals in her book, Writing in Flow).
“Not all writers concede that their routine is vital or important, or even that it matters all that much. Some, though, are aware that the activities they pursue pre-writing do matter. I suspect that the majority of the rest do what they do so routinely that their “rituals” are no longer on a conscious level”. – Susan K Perry, Psychology Today, 2009.
Writuals, The Term
This somewhat coy term was coined by the BBC in a post by Kerry McKittrick in ‘Writuals’— Scribes Reveal Daily Routines’ BBC News, 2008. In this article, six Irish writers were asked six questions. Since that article appeared, the questions have appeared as a meme across the internet, with several blogging writers answering those same six questions:
- Where are you?
- What are you writing with?
- What’s the oddest object in front of you?
- What are you listening to?
- What do you look at when you’re looking for inspiration?
- What is guaranteed to remove your concentration?
They’re pretty good questions to ask yourself too.
In the Get Inspired chapter of Rochelle Melander’s ‘Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)’, Melander discusses other avenues of maintaining inspiration around you. Methods include making lists, getting creative, or creating an inspiration box. She also lists having collections or figurines which inspire us. Many writers work surrounded by quotes from famous authors, or photo frames of their family.
Rich Furman, in a guest post here, suggests that a writing ritual acts as a behavioural cue or trigger – a “readiness” to act. He also suggests that to get down and write daily, many writers need to create a mindset of a positive addiction (to writing)and such rituals provide the cue into action and movement which is almost compulsive in quality.
Tori, in a post here, says that there are three types of writing rituals –
- Preparation Rituals – things like clearing your desk, or reading over the day before’s writing
- Productive Rituals – things like what clothes you must wear, what music you listen to, quotas you must complete before finishing writing for the day.
- Reward Rituals – incentive programs, treats etc, but only after completing the task, or so many pages…
The Writer’s Core Habit Pack for Writing Rituals and Routines
Core Habit – Work out what are your writing rituals and use them to set your mind into sitting down to write.
- Answer the six questions above.
- If you don’t have any rituals that you are aware of, design some. Choose a mascot, for instance, or set out a preparation ritual. Create a cue that you are now entering your writing work time.
What do you need to have around you to put yourself into the writing process? Do you need coffee? A music playlist? Complete silence? What’s your writing space need to look like? De-cluttered or clutter? What trinkets and stationery are necessary? What do you need to wear to get into the writing flow? What quotas do you need to fill for a complete writing day? What rewards or incentives inspire you?
Wacky Writuals (Bonus PDF)
Odd writing habits certainly feed the public’s imagination, and that of many writers searching for some form of acknowledgement that what we need to do or surround ourselves with, in order to write, is just normal (oddness) for writers.
Just to let you feel like you’re in good company, here’s a 2 page PDF listing many famous author’s wacky writing rituals. For personal use only, my accompaniment to this post. Download WCHP Wacky Writuals.
- James Scott Bell writes of several rituals he must do or has utilized to motivate himself in ‘10 Disciplines for Fiction Writers’. The first one talks about buying a mug with ‘writer’ labelled on it, and looking at it everyday as a visual cue.
- Grammar.About.Com lists several other famous writer’s odd rituals.
|Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)|
|Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity|
|Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey|
This blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.
This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.
No affiliate links are used in these posts.