5-day Start Writing Challenge: Why You Need a Pre-writing Ritual

Sep 13, 2020

5-day Start Writing Challenge: Why You Need a Pre-writing Ritual

This is one of the more unusal pieces of advice I’ve seen when it comes to starting a writing practice, but you’re here because you’re having trouble settling down to write. A simple solution is to find a way to signal your brain that it’s time to write, and a ritual that you repeat every time you sit down to write will do that.

This ritual can be as elaborate as you like. My morning ritual consists of at least 30 minutes of yoga followed by meditation and Tarot. (I call it YMT.) That can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. That’s a lot if you’re going to sit down and write for two hours afterwards and you have to still fit in a full-time job and life stuff.

YMT is my whole day don’t-be-a-monster ritual, but my pre-writing ritual is super simple

  1. I hide my phone in another room
  2. I turn on my playlist for that project
  3. I find where I left off and start writing

That’s it.

It’s not huge, but I know my strengths and weaknesses. Music that captures the emotional energy of my project helps me focus. And I know that if my phone is nearby, I will watch Instagram stories for hours because I am a nosy bitch who wants to know everybody’s business.

If I am having a particularly difficult time settling in that day, I will meditate for a few minutes, light a candle, even pull a Tarot card and journal until the ideas are sparking again.

It’s all about finding the right steps to center your concentration and easily access the words inside you.

My advice is to make it something simple. Tidy your desk. Light a candle. Turn off your browser and turn on your music. Make a mug of something hot to drink. Anything that signals to your brain and your body that it’s time to cut out the bull shit and start writing.

At fist it might feel silly, especially if you choose the mantra-slash-affirmation route. Saying “Words flow to me freely” to your laptop might make you feel like a complete ass. Do it anyway. Over the course of our 5-day challenge, it might seem like your ritual doesn’t do a damn thing to help you focus on your writing.

That’s because this is one of those tings that becomes more effective the longer you use it. You’ve never written (regularly) before! Your brain is confused AF about what you’re doing. Maybe it’s even telling you awful evil lies about you can’t and shouldn’t even be trying. We are choosing not to listen to that voice. That voice is fear, and fear doesn’t want us to write the words and become more in tune with our inner landscape, because that’s how we find out just how powerful we truly are. I like to imagine my fear is all the people who told me how I was failing their expectations of me growing up and flip them the bird. Then I go writing something they’d probably tell me I was going to hell for writing. Because I’m writing for me. Not for them.

The more you practice, both writing and your ritual, the easier settling down and getting to work becomes. The easier it is to tap into that piece of your secret inner self where those words have been hiding. Slowly, ever so slowly, that fear that you can’t write starts to fade, because you start to feel the power that comes with your words.

Your words are powerful expressions of your beautiful soul, and you deserve for the world to read them. You have an important message–yes, even if you’re writing novels the rest of the world thumbs their noses at. Don’t shortchange us by keeping them inside because you are afraid. Learning to access your words and craft them is a beautiful, sometimes frustrating, sometimes painful process of learning to move past all the bull shit you’ve been told about what and who you should be–about what you’ve been told writing is and how you’ve been told to do it.

And it will continue to be frustrating and painful. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where it didn’t feel like I’d bled all over the page–but writing can also bring the most beautiful high. Not just a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction, but something almost transcendent happens when you figure out how to get out of your own way and access that power that’s been hiding inside you.

And it’s okay if you think I’m full of hooey right now. Y’all knew I was totally into the woo. (Well, if you didn’t before, you did the second you saw I read Tarot every day.) Just maybe try to the playlist thing.

And if that doesn’t for you–and this is my favorite part–you can change it.

For real. It’s all your decision. If playlists mess with your jive, write in silence. If you’re afraid of candles, don’t use one. If you write better with the TV on more power to you, just know that I will think you are weird and have superhuman powers of concentration.

The whole point is to find what works for you and run with it. If something isn’t serving you, leave it. Try something else. Don’t use it for an excuse not to write. The problem isn’t you. It’s the tools that you’re using.

What pre-writing ritual are you going to try first?

You in? Sign up for the 5-day Start Writing Challenge.

Start Writing Challenge Blog Series:

Creating Space to Write

Choosing Your Word Count


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