I'm not a scheduled writer. I don't write at the same time everyday. Actually, I don't write everyday. Okay, well I write something (i.e. notes for class, does that count?) everyday, but I don't work on my fiction project everyday. I've never been good at writing rituals, but I've always wondered if I having a little ritual might help me produce more work and write more often.
Let's look at the pros of having a ritual, shall we?
- By completing your writing ritual you prepare yourself mentally and narrow your focus to your work
- It signals to other people around you that you're on do-not-distract-me writing time
It makes you look like a cool, real writer
Let's look at the cons now...
- By not being able to complete your writing ritual, you can't get any writing done
- It can become more of a show of being a writer than actually writing, especially if you announce it on your social media constantly (I swear that this is not a passive aggressive statement, honest!)
Okay, that was not a very comprehensive pro/con list, but it highlights the main issue that I want to point out. A writing ritual can be a great way to focus yourself, but that same way of focusing yourself can be extremely crippling. What happens when you can't make that cup of coffee or have perfect silence? You don't, maybe you tell yourself that you can't write. Its greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness (how typical).
This issue came to a head in my brain when I was watching House Hunters International instead of reading for class. One of the guys looking for a house kept turning down properties because they weren't "inspiring" or they weren't "quiet enough" or there wasn't enough "green space". He said that he couldn't finish his novel in houses like that. To which I responded (in my head of course): If you can afford to be picky, go ahead be picky; you're dropping half a million dollars, you may as well like the house. But don't delude yourself into thinking that it's impossible to write in places that don't fit within your ideal writing ritual.
Virginia Woolf famously said:
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
And as writers sometimes we get trapped into the idea that we must have a "room," or should I say a writing ritual, to produce work.
But I think Gloria Anzaldúa says it better:
"Forget the room of one’s own - write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus or the welfare line, on the job or during meals, between sleeping or waking. I write while sitting on the john. No long stretches at the typewriter unless you’re wealthy or have a patron - you may not even own a typewriter. While you wash the floor or clothes listen to the words chanting in your body. When you’re depressed, angry, hurt, when compassion and love possess you. When you cannot help but write. "
Let's get back to the origin question of writing rituals. Am I going to develop a writing ritual? I don't know. Although I seem to be making an argument against them, they're not inherently bad. They can do some good work in terms of focusing. I really am still unsure of where I stand on this issue, but in the meantime I'm going to get back to writing.
I'm really curious about any rituals you might have. Do you find writing rituals helpful? The worst? Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
Reading: Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling
Watching: Suits (That season 5 finale!)
Listening: Mumford and Sons