Jane Austen did it every morning. Stephen King does it every day. Franz Kafka did it every night. Why have so many famous writers stuck like glue to a ritualized routine? Because it works.

For thousands of years humans have successfully used rituals to set in place things important to them: religion, rites of passage, marriage, birth, death, allegiances and oaths. And we all use rituals to manage bits of our life; from leaving our keys by the door to what’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning.

You can consciously design a ritual to wrap your writing in – one that fits you like a finely made glove and eventually becomes habit. That ritual can protect you from all the yammering noises we’re using to stay in touch digitally – I’m talking about you, Slack! – and all the enticing online and offline distractions this mostly-digital society enjoys.

Here are a few of the more outlandish rituals of famous writers:

  • Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown often hangs upside down to help clear his writer’s block.
  • Honoré de Balzac drank nearly 50 cups of coffee per day!
  • Jonathan Safran Foer will hang blank sheets of paper he receives from other famous authors on the wall for inspiration. 

Still unconvinced of the importance of routine? Have a look Shortlist.com’s post on the daily rituals of famous writers – and if you want to delve further into rituals for writers, you could do worse than Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

Writing is serious work – it need serious attention, focus, and commitment. Building a ritual for yourself as to how, where, when you will write and committing to it is a strong bridge over that black chasm between “I want to be a writer” and “I am a writer”.

Creating Your Ritual or Routine

How can you mine your own life for rituals or habits you can turn into an effective writing routine?

  • Notice how and when you are most creative or most prolific. Is it first thing in the morning, late at night or in those stolen moments during your lunch break? At home, in a coffee shop – or maybe even at a wine bar? What you’re already doing can often tell you more about your future success than what you’d like to be doing in the future.

 

  • Make it your own. You’ll read umpteen article about the rituals of famous writers – and one thread ties them altogether. They are highly individualized. While you can learn from how these writers developed their routines, try not to completely copy them. Listen to yourself and attend to your own eccentricities to find that habit all your own. Who knows, in a few years you might be sharing it with some group of aspiring writers!

 

  • Don’t be afraid to be quirky. As Steve Martin once said, the conscious mind is the editor, and the unconscious mind is the writer. Sometimes you have wade into eccentricity to tap your unconscious mind. Hey, whatever works, right?

 

Have a writing ritual, routine or quirk that helps you move through blocks and finish projects? Go ahead and share ’em in the comments below!

 

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