Call it a writer's ritual, call it a writing routine, call it whatever you want, but I believe that having a consistent structure to begin your day is vital.
For too many of us (and I fall victim to this habit also) the first action of the day is opening the computer and starting in with emails and social media.
But does this truly serve you and your writing? I don't think it does. For one thing, dealing with emails and such first thing means you're telling the world it is way more important than you. And it sets up a pattern of reactivity rather than proactivity. Let me just tell you, if you desire to be a writer and get your words out into the world, you're going to need to be proactive. Big time proactive. So why not set up this pattern as you set up your day?
Writing gets done minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. As Annie Dillard has said, "How you spend your days is how you spend your life." And so why not set up those days right, allowing yourself a fighting chance at getting done what you want to accomplish?
Because that is what a morning ritual does, at least for me: it makes things possible. Things like writing and thinking clearly and tearing through a to-do list. Okay, that last doesn't happen every day. A morning ritual might also be the one time in the day that you get some writing done.
Mornings–before the hustle of the day sets in–are one of the few times we have absolute control over our schedule. You might have to get up thirty minutes early to make time for a morning ritual, but believe me, its worth it. So here are some suggestions for activities that can create a morning routine for writers:
1. Meditate. I don't know about you, but I must have coffee first thing in the morning. Thus, meditating doesn't work for me, at least as the very first thing I do, because it is impossible to sit quietly and focus on the breath and drink coffee at the same time. What does work is for me is to drink my coffee while doing one of the other activities and then get a 15-minute meditation session in. (I know, I'm a wimp. The only time I can do longer sessions is when I go to a meditation class.)
2. Morning Pages. The classic morning activity for all writers and creatives, espoused by Julia Cameron in the seminal book The Artist's Way. Morning pages involve simply glumping it all on paper in one three-page free write. I love morning pages and if in doubt, there are my fall-back activity. But sometimes I long for more focused writing in the morning, in which case I choose one of the following options.
3. Your Current Project. I wrote my novel Emma Jean's Bad Behavior by getting up at 5 AM and writing 2000 words before the day began. Sometimes you morning routine will be the only chance you'll have to work on your current project. Use it. You'll whistle with happiness all day long.
4. The Ordinary Day. This is a fun thing to throw into the mix. Write a complete chronicle of what you did the day before, hour by hour. With details and description. Not only is it fun, it is good writing practice and it teaches you a lot about characterization.
5. Reading and Reflection. My current favorite. Right now, I'm on a spiritual reading kick, but books on writing would be just as appropriate to peruse. I read a little, write down a quote that speaks to me, write about it a bit, read some more, write some more. I love this ritual because the words I read serve as reminders to me all day long. (I've got a list of both spiritual and writing titles if anybody is interested, email me and I'll send it to you.)
As you can no doubt tell, I get bored easily and switch from one routine to another. Or sometimes I do several of them at once, such as read, do morning pages, and meditate. (I try to meditate every morning, try being the operative word.)
Create a successful, inspired writing life: Choose a morning ritual and commit to it for one week. Really pay attention to how it makes you feel and work throughout the day.
So, tell me: do you have a morning ritual? How does it impact your writing life? Please share in the comments below.
*If you need help setting up a morning routine or any aspect of a successful writing life, I've got a few openings in my coaching. Go to my writing coaching page to read more.
Photo by cempey. I played with it a teeny bit on Typepad's new photo editor.