“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” —Louis L’Amour
Over the past year, I’ve conducted quite a few interviews with authors, both for Read Poetry and my community, Write or Die Tribe. One of my favorite questions to ask writers is what their writing routine looks like. I want to know all the details, from how long they write each day, if they cater to a specific word count, what time of day they like to write and if they have other jobs or responsibilities that they have to work around. I want to know how they found the discipline, drive and pure will to get their words on the page and create this magical thing.
As writers, we know the constant struggle that comes with this art or profession—making time. But deep down, despite how many articles we read on writing practices or how many writing classes we take or how many craft books we read, our writing goals can only be achieved if we start writing. We just have to start.
One of the ways to get your creative juices flowing and spark desire to show up to the page is to create pre-writing rituals. These small tasks or practices help you get into a mental state that is conducive to creating. After all, it’s best to warm up your cold muscles before exercising. Think of these rituals like a warm-up for your creative brain. Once you get going, there is no stopping you. Here are a few pre-writing rituals you can put into practice to help establish your writing routine and fuel passion for your poetry endeavors.
Let’s start with something simple. The act of preparing your coffee (or tea) can feel sacred, especially if it’s your favorite hot beverage. Before writing, focus on the task at hand, grinding the beans, listening to the water dripping, filling your favorite mug, adding cream and sugar. While this might seem trivial, this can act as a ritual for you. While you are waiting for the coffee to brew, think about what you want to explore on the page today. Cherishing these small moments can make you feel grateful that you are able to explore your creativity through writing.
Read a Book You Love
Reading a favorite book before writing seems to be a popular ritual among other writers. Your writing style can be influenced by any number of things, but often it’s influenced by writers you have read before. If there is a particular writer you admire, read a piece of their work. You can try to respond to it or simply relish in their genius and see where it takes you in your own work.
Take a few moments to stretch out your body in whatever way feels good to you. Not only can this make you feel lighter, stronger, or more relaxed, it’s a great time to tune into your body and see what it needs. We can gain so much creative inspiration from our own physicality if we look for it. Feel your limbs stretching, your heart pumping and the relief of tightened muscles stretching out. This can also help you focus on the present moment, this moment that is designated for you to start writing.
Meditation is tough, I will admit that. In our busy, often fast-paced worlds, it can be quite a challenge to slow down completely and try to empty our brain. But even if you can only meditate for a minute or two, these moments of clarity can help you prepare for the writing you seek to complete today. Taking a moment to reflect on what you’d like to accomplish during your writing time is always helpful. Also, be sure to keep your thoughts positive as dwelling on negative thoughts can block the free-flow of creative ideas. Much like stretching, meditating centers you in your body and focuses on your breathing. Sometimes all you need is to take a deep, cleansing breath and you’re ready to face anything.
Light incense or a candle
Pick a scent that you find relaxing. Meditating on the flickering flame of a candle or curling smoke for a while might help to clear your mind. If you are partial to incense, you can even use this as a writing timer. If you feel you work better writing with a time limit, you can promise yourself to write until the incense stick burns down.
Listen to Music
Music heavily influences my mood. It can make me feel melancholy, full of joy, excited or even creative. If you feel a close connection to music, try incorporating it into your pre-writing ritual. What do you feel when you listen to it? What does it bring to mind? Perhaps you could write down some of these thoughts and feelings.
What better way to jump-start your writing engine than to just start writing. Sometimes free writing or journaling, writing without a goal or subject in mind, can help you navigate your feelings and get out the thoughts that are distracting you from your work onto the page. Pick out a favorite notebook designated for this specific ritual. Start your day by pouring all your anxieties, worries or fears onto the page. This can make room for what you really want to talk about in your current writing project. Or it can help narrow the focus so you know where to begin.