I haven't met a writer who doesn’t feel like throwing a toddler temper when faced with a blank page. You know need to do the work, but you don’t want to. You can think of fifty million other things you would rather be doing, eating, and reading.
Writing is a capricious beast. Long periods of stagnation can open up beautiful vistas or a deep black abyss. Some writers face the page with fits and starts. No two get to the end of a piece in the same way.
But the one thing I can say about all writers? They write.
They fuss about it. Tweet about it. Facebook about it. Take photos to post to Instagram about it. Eventually, they all have to sit down and do it.
I’m reading “Writing Alone, Writing Together” by Judy Reeves on the recommendation of a Critique Group mate. One exercise asked me to think about my writing rituals.
I balked. I don’t need rituals. I am a free thinking writer. I can do it any place anytime!
Since the key to most wise lessons lies in digging past resistance, I decided to track what I do before writing sessions for a week.
Don’t you love when the universe kicks you right in the head! Uh, yeah. So I might have a few rituals. I make lists, I journal, I wait until everyone is asleep, and then I slip into my own little world and create. There are more details and specifics, but that’s the gist of it.
I like to plan, and it seems I carry this over in my writing as well. I like goals, know what I am going to be working on, have gut checks for myself, and try to have as little distractions as possible.
Maybe your rituals involve where you write, a meditation, a candle, maybe it’s a certain pen you like because of the way it feels as it rolls across paper. I bet if you watch yourself, you will find there are things you are doing to prepare your brain to get creative.
There is a difference between sitting down to the page to work, and being lashed to a chair so you get to a word count goal. If you are creating from a place of stress, you aren’t going to be creating good work. I don’t mean the deadline kind of stress, we all have our own carrot we chase, I mean the kind of stress that says you must finish this story or else!
While I appreciate discipline, I tend to lean more towards intention. What’s your end game for your work? Sell a million copies? How do you do that?
At a workshop earlier this year, someone mentioned picking a bestseller to read every month and trying to figure out what made it great. In the few I have applied this to, I can say categorically it’s been connection. Doesn’t matter if it’s paranormal, contemporary, regency, whatever. As a reader I felt connected to a character and wanted to see it through to the end. Period.
We are discovering we need connection as humans. Even an introvert like me feels fed by being around other writers and letting their struggles and triumphs give me an opportunity to help. I need my tribe.
And readers need it in a book. If you are so disconnected when you sit down it is about nothing more than reaching the word count goal for the day, you aren’t creating, you’re dialing it in. You might as well pay someone else to sit down for you.
When this happens, recognize the resistance and get to the bottom of it. Is your creative well running dry? Go have a date with yourself. Browse a bookstore. Go look at some art you wouldn’t normally indulge in. People watch at the mall. Sit outside in a park and make up stories as others pass by. Find something to feed your soul.
Then apply some discipline and sit back down at the page. You might need to work through some crappy writing before the good stuff shows itself again, but it’s there.
So give your inner toddler a time out, and get your head back in the game. You’ve got this.
What’s are your writing rituals? I would love to hear about them. Leave me a comment below!