Friday, April 15, 2011

Writing Rituals

Imagine that you need a jump-start to your writing sessions. It's probably not that difficult to do because most of us DO need a kick in the pants on a regular basis. Unless you've just begun a new work-in-progress and are completely enamored of your exciting new plot, compelling characters and sparkling prose, you're like the rest of us - past the honeymoon stage and thinking of a quickie divorce.

What we need are some ways to jump-start our writing. After doing a bit of research on the Zen of reaching for the here and now so that our spirits have access to our best creative energies, I've put together several techniques to help you escape the nonexistent past and future. I want you to feel relaxed and open toward your work and to allow the muse to meet you at the keyboard and flow through your fingers. The following practices of breathing, stretching and finding your voice are practical and inspiring. I hope the results are revelatory. (One caveat: not all the following techniques will apply to you. Pick and choose the ones that fit your personality. But DO try all of them.)

This first technique is designed to loosen your body because an uptight one hinders your frame of mind. Ready? Okay, everyone stand up. Up, up! Come on. Now stick your hands in your armpits, flap your elbows up and down and simultaneously do deep-knee bends. When you can do this easily, without screeching or swearing, gradually begin to honk like a goose. "WTH?" you mutter. No! No muttering allowed, only honking. Don't you feel loose as a goose and completely uninhibited now? Even if you're not, your muse is laughing her arse off and is ready to begin work.

The second technique works with your breath. Proper breathing is necessary for high brain functioning. Think of all the times you sat and watched the cursor on the screen blinking impatiently, hopefully, anticipating the next keyboard strokes that would set it in motion, let it race across the computer screen with absolute abandon. It blinked and you cussed your writer's block. All you need is this breathing exercise which will light those brain cells on fire with pure, unadulterated oxygen. Ready? Stand up. Again. Come on, you can't do this sitting on your duff. Now reach as high as you can and take a deep breath. Feel your lungs expand and your head grow light. Exhale slowly and hum your favorite television commercial ditty. Do this five times or until you pass out from too much fresh air.

The next technique is designed to make you comfortable at your workspace and to be in harmony with it. You'll have to stand up again, sorry. Ready? Hold your hands about waist-height and begin to swivel your hips like a Hula girl in a grass skirt. After 13 clockwise rotations, switch and do 13 counter-clockwise rotations. Use caution when reversing your direction: you don't want to throw your back out. For those of you with a certain amount of limberness, you can add some graceful dance steps if you like. I recommend doing this one only when your significant other is out of the room. These moves tend to put Ideas in their heads.

Next we're going to channel our inner characters, become one with our heroes and heroines. Are you ready? Are you - yes, you know I'm going to say it - standing up? Good. Make sure to leave room around you for this one. Imagine your protagonist is locked in a box. He, or she, must find a way out of it. Close your eyes for a moment and envision the box and become your character. When you're one with your character, open your eyes and begin to "feel" around the box, looking for an exit. Careful you don't bump your nose against the wall! Don't stub your toes! What does your character do? Become angry and bang on the box? Give up and sit against its walls? Cry? Pull out his 1911 pistol and blow it away?

Finally you're ready to approach your work station. Stand next to your chair and sniff it. It should be pleasing to you. Now turn three circles and sit down. Congratulations! You've completed the first steps toward jump-starting your writing. Either that, or you're nearly ready to audition for Mime School...

Seriously, though, we all find countless little ways - little rituals - to do before we begin our writing. It might be as simple as finding the perfect mood music or having that cup of tea within reach. I like to put my noise-cancelling headphones on my ears, tuck my left foot up under me and give the beagle under my feet a good rub.

How about you? What starts your writing sessions?


  1. LOL! Ah, Susan, after following your steps my cats are both looking at me as though I have finally become certifiably insane! (G)

    As for my writing sessions ... first I brew up a pot of tea (in a gorgeous blue and white patterned tea pot I've had forever), transport it to my study and sip away at the brew while I select some music (mostly from the Inception and Sherlock Holmes sound tracks - both by Hans Zimmer, and totally moody and awesome) then read over what I last wrote, kick off my shoes (I CANNOT write with shoes on!) and then - hopefully - start typing ...

    Heh. Those beagle foot rubs sound pretty good.

  2. Now that I'm hyperventilating and dizzy, I'll let you know that doing all that isn't pretty. Thank goodness, John's at work and the pups are sleeping in the other room. ; )

    I need a cup of tea, silence and one good line start. Unfortunately, the one good lines are few and far between some days.

  3. I don't have any particular writing rituals. Sometimes it's just sitting down on the bus, or at a coffee shop, pulling out a netbook or alphasmart, and - it's time to get to work!

    If I'm at home, I'll usually make sure that the bright light's on, pour myself a glass of sugar-free drink mix, and turn on the MP3 traveldock.

    I'm starting up a 'Critiquing Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

  4. I like that box idea! Like Zan Marie, I need one good line to jump into a scene with. A latte also helps. And noooo distractions. Which means I have to put myself into uncomfortable situations. Like today. DH could not understand why I wanted to go out in the hail and snow to sit in the coffee shop for a few hours listening to terrible music and inane conversations while I edit the novel. Instead of staying at home, with my own music, curled up on the sofa, surrounded by cats and books, with the internet at my fingertips...
    Uh, yea. Those of us with no willpower have to get out to edit [g]