I was asked recently if I had any writing rituals.
I would not say that I have a particularly consistent “writing ritual,” but I have certain habits that contribute to my writing. Most days, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my email and respond to anything that calls for a response, no matter whether it is personal, work, or writing-related. Next, I will usually make some coffee and try to wake up my brain with either a crossword puzzle or an online game of Scrabble.
Next, I’ll spend a few minutes attending to some Steel Toe Review or Birmingham Free Press business. That might involve posting a story to one of the STR or BFP websites, doing a little research about something, or sending out a fundraising message. Once all that is out of the way, unless I have urgent day-job work to do, I can start working on some of my own writing.
“Working on writing” might mean setting up an interview for a Birmingham Free Press article, adding to a fictional piece that I’ve already started, creating an outline, composing something for my personal blog, or any number of other things. I try to do as many of these activities as time permits every day.
Whenever I have the time, and the weather is tolerable enough, I like to take long walks with a notebook in hand. I think over whatever project I’m working on as I walk, and I occasionally stop to jot down notes. I’ve been known to spend entire days doing this. Lately, this activity has been a rare luxury. I have a treadmill at home, and I’ve tried to use this to emulate the ritual, but it isn’t the same. I get too distracted by the timer and calorie counter, and I start doing calculations in my head instead of thinking about writing.
When I’m writing at home, I like to have a dedicated beverage next to me. In the morning, it’s coffee. At night, it’s usually a glass of good bourbon or scotch. Afternoons I’m not too busy with day-job work and don’t have other plans, I will go to a coffee shop to write. Some evenings, I’ll go to a bar with my writing journal, the seedier the better, and take notes about people who are around, overheard conversations, etc.
What I usually can’t do while I’m writing is listen to music, though it doesn’t disturb me too much when I’m working from a coffee shop or bar. If I do listen to music, it’s usually some sort of noisy avant-garde or free jazz selection.