You Can Change Your Writing Ritual

by Laura Yeager

A writing ritual is something we feel we must experience in order to write. For example, some writers MUST smoke cigarettes while they’re writing, or they won’t pen a word. Or some must play music while writing.  

All of us have writing rituals such as these, and all of us believe that they're set in stone. We think we must go through our sacred ritual steps in order to produce something brilliant, or at least, something half-way decent. But little do most writers know, writing rituals can be changed. 

First, let's take a look at some of the common writing rituals. Probably the most common ritual has to do with the time a writer feels she needs to write. I like to write in the daytime from 1:00-3:00 or from 8:00-10:00. These times correspond to the times that my child is away at pre-school or is asleep. A writer friend of mine is a middle-of-the-night writer. You, on the other hand, might like to write at the crack of dawn. 

The next ritual has to do with the place a person writes. I like to write in a relatively secluded place–my home office. But some writers need to go out in public to do their work. Coffee shops attract a lot of writers. You might like to write outdoors in a park or on your terrace. 

Next, let’s consider a writer’s writing tools. Some writers can’t write a word unless they’re using their "special" pen or pencil. Or they might like to write on a specific kind of paper. I usually compose on a computer, using a word processor. I know a guy who still writes everything on a typewriter. What do you do?

Another consideration is sound while writing. I prefer complete quiet. My writer friend likes to write while listening to music, specifically Sondheim. Some writers might enjoy playing a babbling brook sound effect CD.

Now, what is one eating or drinking while writing? It might be potato chips or chocolate. I don’t eat while I write, but I must be consuming a large glass of ice water, or I can’t get my words to flow. Many writers like to gulp coffee while composing. 

Do you have a special writing outfit? Some writers can’t compose without their magical baseball cap or special sweatshirt. I know a lot of writers who like loose clothing, nothing to distract them while they’re pounding away on the computer.

And what do you do before you write? Pray? Meditate? Do yoga? Smoke pot? Drop acid, or drink a martini? I go into my writing sessions cold, with little preparation.

So there are some of the basic writing rituals, and as I said above, most people believe they’re set in stone. I want to tell you that they’re not.  

Recently, I decided to turn on some classical music during a writing session. I thought that I’d never be able to write a word while the music was playing, but I thought I’d try it anyway. At first, the music was distracting. But then, I began to get used to it. By the end of the session, the music was inspiring me as I was creating.  

This made me think back to a time I’d done this before. When I first started writing in the 1980's I always wrote using pen and paper, writing it all down by hand. I didn’t like composing on a typewriter; in fact, I couldn’t do it. Then, the computer came in. It seemed to me that I could save a lot of time if I could learn to compose right on the computer instead of writing by hand and then typing it into my PC. So I set out to teach myself how to compose directly on the computer. It was strange at first, but eventually, I mastered the task. 

Yes, writing rituals can be changed. It’s important to know this because your rituals might even be harming you.  

For example, if you feel you must devour something such as chocolate, you might be packing on the unwanted pounds as you write. It’s important to know that substitutions can be made. You might try chewing sugarless gum. It will seem strange at first, but you’ll get used to it. I can almost guarantee it. 

You may have to change your writing rituals. For instance, your hours might be changed from first shift to third shift. So now, instead of writing at night, you’re working. You canget used to writing in the day. Take heart. 

I must say, it was surprising to me when I realized that I could change my writing rituals. It’s good to know this. You just might need to change them in the future. 

Remember, there will be an adjustment period, but given a little time and energy, you can create new rituals for yourself.

I wish you luck on your writing journey, however it takes shape.

Don’t let your writing ritual control you. 

You control the writing ritual.

Laura Yeager writes literary fiction and nonfiction for many kinds of markets. Her nonfiction frequently appears in The Writer Magazine, bp Magazine, and at She also works as a professional blogger and speechwriter. She teaches online fiction writing at Gotham Writers' Workshop. Laura is currently looking for an agent for a middle-grade novel series.

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