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Monday, July 11, 2011

Writer's Rituals

I know a travel writer who can't start a final draft until he has taken a shower. It's his ritual, his way of telling himself he is washing away all old ideas of how his final written piece should go and starting fresh. It works for him.

A novelist I know can't start a new project unless she first sharpens a half-dozen pencils. She composes on a keyboard and seldom uses a pencil, but she learned the pencil-sharpening way of getting started when she was a little child, just learning to write. It still works for her.

Writer's rituals may not be as crazy (or as interesting) as the superstitious rituals of some pro sports players, but they may serve just as real a purpose.

As a now-famous romance novelist once said, "It's whatever cranks your engine." If sharpening pencils tells your inner muse to get ready to write, then sharpen away! If taking a shower tells your inner editor it's time to go to work, keep the shower ready.

My rituals aren't as symbolic. Usually I start a new day of writing by reading through (and slightly editing) the scene or chapter I wrote during my last stretch at the keyboard. That gets me into the voice of my narrator and back into the action of the story. It can also help me break a writer's block if I've been stumped for a while.

Here's the trick: Learning what rituals work for you can help you cut through the wheel-spinning, getting you back to work faster and with less wasted effort.

If you have a ritual that works for you, please share!

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