Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Inspiration for Writers: The Morning Ritual


Your happy morning sunrise

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.

0 thoughts on “Inspiration for Writers: The Morning Ritual

  1. Carole Jane Treggett

    Hi Charlotte,
    I’m like you and want to have coffee first thing, so I sit and barrel through my morning pages while enjoying that first cup. Then sadly, I usually can’t resist going to answer email and checking social media. Silly thing is, most things really can wait an hour or two before being addressed/read.

    I love Point #5 and haven’t given myself permission often enough to take the time to do some reading and reflection as part of my morning routine. This activity always inspires me to write and create more. I know I just need to make it a routine so I instinctively choose it as a preferred activity rather than the habit of running to my inbox and social media several times a day.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Carole Jane, Yes, #5 is my new favorite, and its weird how reading first thing in the morning seems almost decadent. When really, I’m finding that it sets me up for the day better than nearly any other thing I’ve tried. We are so, so hard on ourselves.

  3. Suzanne C. Robertson

    As usual you are so wise and witty all in one package. I am a fan of #5, but see that I need to change it up some using some of the other approaches. I throw a little bit of #1 in there, too (no elementary school jokes please), as this starts off as my quiet time/discussion with God. It’s a great way to start the day, but also frustrating b/c when the alarm goes off I have to jump up and get to my “real” job. Trade-offs, trade-offs. Thanks for your inspiring site!

    p.s. Re, your post earlier in the week: I think we need to see a picture of this new hair color, at your earliest convenience. 😉

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Ahh, thanks Suzanne. I like being called wise and witty. Yeah, those pesky day jobs do get in the way of life, don’t they? And yes, I know I need to post a photo of the new hair color. I’ve actually been attempting to take a photo of it on my Iphone, about the only way I take pictures, but its hard to do a self-portrait. I keep missing.

  5. Zan Marie

    I must have breakfast and then sit down with a cup of tea, and though I do check my emails, etc. first, I write something before lunch. After lunch is my most productive time. Settled in with my 3rd and 4th cups of tea, I can launch into the current project.

    The more I hear about it, the more I think I need Julia Cameron’s book. ; )

  6. Don

    5 in the morning? I think I rather wake up dead! Seriously, I find late nights and mornings are the best times to write. Less distractions. As far as meditating goes, coffee is out, bagel’s and milk are in! But then again, that’s just me, silly old me.

  7. Don

    Oh, I forgot, as far lil old me goes opening my email in the morning I really don’t have much of a choice. The reasoning is that if I don’t my curiosity will bug me until I do, otherwise I won’t be able to concentrate on getting anything I write. However, I see your point and I really must force myself to try harder to resist the urge in the future.

  8. Charlotte Dixon

    Zan Marie, I also think its important to follow our natural rhythms, and it sounds like you are following yours. Maybe some kind of ritual can be the first thing you do in the afternoon? And yes, The Artist’s Way is a great book.

  9. Charlotte Dixon

    Don, if you’re a night owl, you’re a night owl, that’s all there is to it! And yes, I understand the curiosity factor, but 9 times out of 10 I’m disappointed by what’s actually in the email. Thanks for coming by again, I’m SO glad you are back!

  10. Sarah Clachar

    Charlotte, great list of options. I really notice how if I don’t get to writing early enough I lose that discipline for the entire day. It sets the tone for the day. As Tsh Oxbender at Simple Mom suggested, start your day off by eating a frog. Doing a task you really don’t want to do. I’m a writer but still I procrastinate because I fear imperfection.

    I’ve also developed a morning routine that does wonders for my entire day. Sometimes I slip on it, but when I get back to it gets me back in high gear:

    Glad to have found your blog!

  11. Charlotte Dixon

    Hi Sarah, I’m glad you found the blog, also, it is good to meet you. I’m going to go read your post and learn about your routine. You bring up such a good point, that sometimes we procrastinate to do the very thing we love our of fear. Thanks for joining into the conversation!

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