The Ritual is Opening the File (How to Get Your Writing Done)

I had a phone conversation with my dear friend Terry Price this morning. (FYI–he and I are planning a creative writing workshop in Nashville November 2nd and 3rd, so mark your calendars if you’re in the area).

We started talking about ritual and how each of us has heard fledgling writers ask questions such as:

–Do you write first drafts on the computer?

–Where do you sit when you write?

–Do you use pen or pencil to take notes?

–Do you write in the morning or in the evening or some time in between?

–Do you listen to music when you write?

–Do you prefer to look out the window or stare at a wall?

–Do you have a special ritual to complete before you start writing?

Yes, yes I do: it is called opening the file I want to work on.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these questions, and they are fun to find out the answers. The problem is that the questioners are barking up the wrong tree. They are hoping that if they hear the Famous Writer uses a certain kind of pen, they, too can use that pen and somehow the words will magically fly onto the page.  People ask questions like these because they are hoping for an easy answer.

Can’t blame them–who doesn’t want an easy answer? Especially when it comes to writing.

It’s funny, because through the years I’ve actually wished for some kind of writing ritual to ease me into the work. But I’ve never found one. Except for opening the file and starting to move my hands across the keyboard.

And that is how writing gets done, not through any magical rituals.

Do you have any rituals you rely on? (Like you’re going to tell me, after reading this post, right?)

2 thoughts on “The Ritual is Opening the File (How to Get Your Writing Done)”

  1. Hmmmmm… Maybe this expectation I have, that there is some kind of “magical writing ritual” is why so many people who want (read: NEED) to write don’t make it happen?! I know, for me, when I picture the ‘perfect’ writer, I have images from various movies: perfect chair, comfortable in every way; psychotically clean writing space; something warm to drink perfectly close by; perfect view; perfect clothes…or, my favorite, Hemingway (a personal idol for me) writing while on safari, so some exotic word-inspiring locale! Wow – maybe I need to totally rethink these assumed expectations and feeling guilty when I have my ratty lapdesk on my reclined lap while in my comfy recliner and my cat begging for my attention while I wish I had remembered to get something to drink before settling in… Then, once I get up to get said beverage or give the kitty some snuggle time, (POOF!) the inspiration has evaporated! Interesting.Never thought about this vicious cycle before…

    1. Our minds play terrible tricks on us! My favorite image is that of a female English (gotta be Brit) novelist, who goes to her perfect antique desk overlooking a gorgeous old London street, sets her fingers to the keyboard (after sipping tea from a delicate porcelain cup) and writes. The words flow for hours, of course. Is it the tea that is magic? The desk? The London street? Ha! None of it! She just puts her butt in the chair and moves hands across the page. It is so funny how we do this to ourselves. In reality, I’d take your comfy recliner and cat any day! I hope thinking about the cycle helps you!

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