Friday, February 28, 2014

Habits, Patterns, Rituals, Whatever Works

Today, I’m starting a new series of Teaching Author posts on a topic I hadn’t previously thought about much: writing rituals. An article by Debra Eve, “How to Create a Three-Phase Writing Ritual,” is our inspiration.

Eve begins by making the distinction between habits and rituals. Rituals include things like lighting a candle or saying a prayer—making a conscious effort to separate from everyday activities—in order to transition to a different reality to write before returning to normal life.

My pre-writing routine definitely falls into the habits category. First thing in the morning, I fetch a cup of coffee and sit at my desk. I try to write by hand for awhile before I turn on the computer. When I’m in the middle of a project, I plunge right in, scribbling on the draft I printed at the end of the previous day’s work. Between projects, if I’m not sure what to work on next, I write Morning Pages to try to discover where to focus my attention. Writing Morning Pages also helps when I'm stuck. Sometimes they are all I can do; sometimes they help me let go and move on to more productive work. Some days I also read or do a writing exercise.

I just submitted the monarch butterfly manuscript that’s been on my mind for more than four years and my top priority for several months. So I’m in that In-Between Phase right now. I’m writing Morning Pages, recycling old drafts, and catching up on mundane tasks. This clean-up process helps me let go and move on to the next exciting possibility. (I think I might have it! I started my preliminary research on my last trip to the library.)

That clean-up step doesn't qualify as a ritual, either—it's just what works for me. And that's what matters, right? But now that I've put some thought into writing rituals, I'll consider developing one. Who knows? It might be just what I need.

Stay tuned to find out what the other Teaching Authors have to say about habits, patterns, and rituals. We’d love to hear about yours!

JoAnn Early Macken


Carmela Martino said...

Beautiful photo, JA. Good luck with the submission!

LInda Baie said...

I never thought of doing some rituals, but I do read first thing in the morning before anything else, then start with writing, either in my notebook or on the computer. This is very early because 4 days a week I go to work. Hm-m, will think about the ritual idea. Thanks for a new topic!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks, Marti! I took the photo on our front hill.

Linda, I hope you'll keep us posted about your writing ritual thoughts. Good luck!