If you’ve read our e-book The Goal-Oriented Writer, then you know we believe in the importance of setting measurable, specific goals in terms of how you approach your butt-in-chair time. Today, though, we’re advocating a different kind of goal: the goal of creating a prewriting ritual.
Think Of It As A Warm-Up
When you’re prepping for a career as a writer, you’re in training the same way that a professional athlete is in training. You put in long hours. You practice. You perfect. You practice again.
Sure, there have been athletes who wowed the world without seeming to do much actual prep (Babe Ruth has a reputation for doing half the preparation that professional baseballers put in today). But most of the time, to get to the pro level, you’ve got to take your warm-ups seriously.
Warming up your body before a big workout is like warming up your brain before a few hours at the computer. Getting into the right frame of mind helps. If you want to make the most of your writing time, consider a warm-up ritual.
Establish A Marker Between Your Daily Life And Your Writing Time
Some writers like to create a clear line between their time spent doing everyday tasks and their time spent writing about the things that matter deeply to them. You can do this by:
- Lighting a candle
- Retreating into the “sacred” space where you write
- Saying a prayer
- Writing down your worries on an index card and symbolically locking it away
- Reading a meaningful or inspiring book that’s sacred to you
- Setting an intention (to make the most of your time, to stay focused, to write generously, etc.)
Whatever you choose, enter into your writing time with a sense of the sacredness or solemnity or joy for the task before you. When you’re writing for something “bigger” than you, you may find that your writing gets “bigger” too. And when you’ve made a dedicated effort to focus and not let the distractions of life get in the way, you may find your creativity improves.
Activities That Move Your Brain Into A Creative State
Once you’ve set your intention and created a defining line between the worries of your non-writing life and your creative intentions, you might consider spending just a few minutes doing a creative activity that warms up your generative muscles before you dive into the heavy work of writing.
Here are a few things that some writers do to prepare their brains for a major creative output:
- Read a poem or passage by a writer you admire
- Listen to music
- Make a list of anything (colors, incidents, emotions, synonyms for a given word, etc.)
- Free-write in a Journal
- Get your blood moving with jumping jacks (read more about the connection between creativity and body health)
The Solution To Writer’s Block? Low Productivity? Malaise?
Sometimes, creating a prewriting ritual can help alleviate writer’s block. Your brain will begin to anticipate a successful writing session even before you set your fingers to the keyboard or your pen to the paper.
While taking extra time to warm up before you write might seem difficult, the results can be very rewarding; they’ll show up on your pages and in your readers’ reactions to your work. If you’re worried you won’t have enough time for prewriting rituals, check this out: How To Make More Time To Write.
Plus, by loosening up your creative muscles before your workout, you might find that you become more productive in the time that you do dedicate to writing (in other words, five minutes of prep might make a single hour of writing more valuable than two hours with no prep at all).
Photo by crdotx.
Thanks a lots! I needed those words of wisdom and it does make
sense to follow the rituals in which you are talking about before
beginning to write. I will try my best to do at least one of those
things before I began writing. Once again, your company is very
valuable snd gives some great information about writing. I appreciate
it so much. This is a lesson learned.
I find that listening to music helps me. Eating ice cream doesn’t hurt either! 🙂
For me, chatting with friends by phone/internet helps me generate writing ideas more than anything…character names & little scenarios just bubble up in my mind like exploding popcorn in a Jiffy-Pop pan. I also get ideas from TY & Radio news stories, but the hard part is when I have to start stringing all the bits together into a story. Coming up with plot ideas, specifically, is my biggest challenge…
Thanks for the tips. I always exercise before I begin my writing day. I keep paper and pen close by as sometimes phrases and answers to sticking points come to me during my aerobics exercise. Thanks again. ~Victoria Marie Lees
Thanks for the tips! I’m starting to seriously wonder if all the (meaningless) internet surfing I do lately isn’t responsable for my long term writer’s block. Writing used to be second nature. An article I crossed suggested over-surfing causing a new sort of ADD in people. Aside from limiting that henceforth, what do you think?
I read a page of fiction that’s in the rhythm of what I want to write, and then set a timer for 5 minutes and freewrite quickly. By the end of 5 minutes I’m usually tapped into the writing project.
Being both a painter and a writer, I find that if I’ve been painting/drawing a lot, I find it harder to “change gears” to writing. A few years ago, I agreed to take a turn at our writing group’s column in the local arts council newsletter. I’d been drawing a lot, and finally ended up writing about my current drawings (I was sketching my way through Gundam Wing at the time) because my mind wouldn’t settle down on any other topic!