It used to take me a good long while to shift gears from being a person to being a writer. Yes, they are completely different beasts. And how frustrating when, once you’re in the groove of being a writer, someone talks to you, forcing you abruptly back into being a person. It used to take me a good twenty-minutes to regain that shift. Well, what if you had a practice in place that allowed you to shift gears from sane person to writer with more expediency?
I’m here with the answer. Ritual, ritual, ritual. I used to have to work at it, drill down for that sweet spot when the words flow freely, but then I discovered the power of Rituals. Like Pavlov’s bell, they are stimuli that illicit a learned response. Here are a few of the daily rituals that I depend on to put myself into that writing frame of mind, that magical sweet spot.
Coffee. Ever since that unpleasantness involving a mouse and the infrastructure of my stove, I don’t have one. (Stove, that is. I’ve got mice. The cat is absolutely useless.) I have replaced my stove, and my coffee maker for that matter, with an electric kettle and now there is no turning back. That paired with my little “pour-over coffeemaker” makes me unstoppable. Check it out through these handy-dandy little affiliate links, for which I may receive a percentage if clicking turns into buying. I’m serious. The electric kettle has been life-changing… and it makes the whole coffeemaking process look more like a sci-fi mad chemistry experiment. It’s also the start of my morning rituals.
Meditation. I’m serious. Just hop on youtube and search for guided mediation. You’ll find more things that are wrong with you than you knew existed, but then you just kind of meditate on them, imagining all sorts of energy whizzing around your body until you step away from it all tingly and ready to receive the muse.
Incense. It began when I noticed my outdoor office smelled a little… funk. (I think there was a skunk sleeping under the building for a while. He has since moved on, thank goodness. He never sprayed the place, but they have a lingering residual musky smell that is not exactly conducive to wanting to spend time in your office space. So I started striking up an incense around the same time I fired up my laptop. The more associations you make with your work, the more easily it is to get into the groove of the work. (Yes, I’m writing my Friday blog with sandalwood burning in the background. And yes, another affiliate link.)
Journal. I have a stack of coffee-stained signatures at my right hand. The first item in my daily journal (after the day and date) is usually the word, “Words”. After the day’s writing, I jot down my word count. Sure, I’ve got a goal, but it’s only a goal of 500 words. Heck, 500 words is nothing! Before I know it, I’ve written 1,500 or more words. Most of them might turn out to be garbage, but hopefully not. Some wise writer person said, “you can’t edit what you haven’t written,” or some other words to that same meaning. You can’t call yourself a writer if you’re not coming to the table. You can’t call yourself a novelist if you don’t write “the end” on at least one stack of 200 pages. So write down the intention, then do it. I’m not saying it might work. I’m saying it DOES work. You are a writer the first day you sit with the intention of returning to this place every day.
Exercise. I usually shoot for every hour. Excessive? Trust me, I’m not killing myself, or killing “it.” For every hour of sitting on my muse, I get up and take a stroll around the yard. I’ve managed to hack out a modest garden path that tootles me around the entire yard. I made that sound extensive. It’s a square acre. One acre. So I squirreled the pathway around the perimeter of the yard and now it allows me a 5 – 10 minute interval to think of something other than the work-in-progress (WIP). Try it! It really does work. It gives you space to think outside of the office box, outside of the plot box, outside of the rules box.
And there you have it. Build a routine. It doesn’t have to be this one. It can be any other associations that both calm your brain and numb your will to live amongst the humans. Join “us” on the other side where the muses live. It really is quite magical… and that’s not just the coffee and incense talking.
Note: Looking for a cool book on habit building? Check out ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear. It’s a magical and comprehensive look at how making tiny shifts can shift your world.