Strange creatures, writers. We live half our lives in imaginary worlds, investing our emotions in characters, and devoting long hours to their stories. We work in isolation, sometimes we’re eccentric, occasionally aggressive and always passionate about what we do.
That’s why we have strange little rituals—habits we’ve developed over time—a list of things we require in order to make the magic happen. Force a writer to break a ritual and you will face their wrath!
There’s a reason for it. Writing is hard, it requires a great amount of mental energy to get into the ‘zone’ and stay there. Most rituals are focused around the development and maintenance of this ‘zone’. That’s why sleeping until 11am is a ritual for me. I’m not kidding. It’s really important. If I wake up earlier on a set writing day, I’m too tired to be inspired. And while I may spend the first couple of hours lazing around, I need that time to reach a state of reflection. It’s the warm up, the stretches before the marathon.
Eventually I settle down to write, and the next two hours are the worst. I’m still forcing away random thoughts that pop into my head, repeatedly checking facebook, and casually reading over the last chapter I wrote. For me, this is where the ritual plays the biggest part.
I need to be in a quiet place, it’s seems dramatic but sometimes even hearing footsteps as someone walks past is enough to break my focus. It’s tempting to open the door and scream at them, but I don’t because it’s rude and I’m a rational person—still, it’s frustrating.
Instead, I use my ipod to drown out the sound of voices in the distance. The music has to be the perfect pace, preferably dark, almost depressing. For me violins are a great muse. I can’t explain it, but I love them. TV on the other hand, forget about it. That will take me right back to square one.
It’s also important to have supplies at hand; drinks and snacks, remote controls for anything I might want to turn on or off, and a bed for the dog to sleep by my feet.
Once my surroundings are exactly how I need them, I position my body in the right place. Don’t ask me why, for some reason I write better when I’m lying down. Sure, I can do it sitting if I have to, but head on a pillow and laptop resting against my knees, seems to work the best.
Two hours later, and I’m finally there—the zone. Four o’clock right through to midnight is my prime time. That’s when everything comes together and I’m really glad I slept enough to last until that time of night.
These are things I’ve been doing subconsciously for years and have never given a second thought. Until recently, I always had plenty of writing time, and the ritual was a by-product rather than first step. I used to see posts from other authors talking about how difficult writing was, but I never saw it that way.
These days my life is pretty fast-paced and writing time is always running low. Now when someone asks me if it’s hard to maintain focus, my answer is—absolutely!
Not because I lack inspiration or motivation, but because life is full of distractions, and the less time I spend writing, the harder it is to find the zone. But the love is as strong as ever, and hardship only makes the achievement more satisfying. You just don’t want to be the person who opens my door at 4pm.
In the words of a writing friend, ‘we’re like serial killers, we need rituals.’