Writing Rituals To Try When You Can’t Get Started

Have you ever wanted to sit down and write, but your focus was shot and you just kept dithering instead?

One shortcut many writers have found that works for them is the use of writing rituals. (See my Taming the Squirrel post). Nearly all of us have them, but sometimes what we’ve been doing stops working or we think we’ve moved past them, and need to revisit them.

Places and Spaces

Where you’re writing. While some writers can write anywhere, many of us have places that make us more productive.

  • A dedicated desk or whole room, set up for just writing. Maybe just a chair you always sit in.
  • Public spaces with soft background noise, but no chores or family members calling for you
    • Maybe it’s a near-silent library
    • Maybe it’s a chatty cafe where you can people watch and snack
  • In your car, with the world locked outside
  • Using voice-to-text while taking a walk

The silent library write-in is a little too quiet for me, but the rest of these aren’t bad at all. Although, I may try switching up seats because my home desk has been converted into dayjob work space of late.

Times to write

Most of us need relatively undistracted time, but we can get it in different ways and in different sizes depending on the demands of our lives. By finding a time of day that you can at least semi-regularly devote, you can begin to form a ritual — or at least a habit.

  • On the phone in the restroom, hiding from your small children
  • Blocked out weekends, where you’ve prepped meals to grab and eat and put a ‘go away’ note on the door.
  • An hour, in the morning, before you start your day (or the rest of the household starts theirs)
  • In the evening, after chores are done (or after the rest of the household goes to bed)
  • Using voice-to-text during your commute
  • On your lunch break at a dayjob, just emailing it to yourself

For me, I’m not much of a morning person, and I have no small ones to dodge. You can usually find me sitting down at my computer sometime after dinner, and going until I’ve got my words in, on the days I write.

Accessories

Then, there are objects we can use to help focus ourselves.

  • Perhaps a literal ‘writing hat’, or a sweater, or house slippers
  • A t-shirt with an inspirational phrase
  • Sound-blocking headphones (turned on or not)
  • A notebook or laptop or stack of post-it notes
  • A trinket that invokes a character or setting

These days, I write on my laptop, with a stand, to tilt it up comfortably for me. And, of course, a USB mouse, because BLEEP touchpads.

Consumables

Not everything we gather needs to be static, some of the things we use are consumable.

  • Something to drink — be it water, coffee, tea, soda, or something stronger
  • Something to eat — salty snacks or chocolates, or maybe even something healthy
  • Something to listen to — be it silence, background noise, or mood triggering music selected for the manuscript, the character, the setting, or the scene

For me, I almost always sit down to write with a full glass of water. And, if the words aren’t coming, snacks can get them started. When drafting a manuscript, I often take a mood inspiring song, use it to seed a Pandora channel, and just thumb up or down as the playlist builds.

Preparatory Tasks

These are things you can do before or after you sit down, to get your mental space ready.

  • Clear all your social media notifications (a bad habit of mine)
  • Turn off your internet
  • Meditation
  • Rereading where you left off or your outline
  • A free-writing session
  • Journaling — to clear your mind

I know it’s a bad habit, but I’ve gotta clear all my notifications before I get started. Then, I usually re-read the last page of what I’d written during my last writing session, and dive right in. Often, using writing sprints.


What writing rituals do you use? Are there some you’ve had to leave behind?

Any of these you think you might want to try?

What do you think?

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