As any writer will tell you, the most effective way to get into flow is to just sit down and take action. Write yourself into that flow, even if you have to trudge through a rough start. The more you write, the easier it becomes to slip into that state because writing is a muscle like any other ─ the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
However, that’s not to say that other factors can’t be used to help move the process along and grease the wheel, so to speak. A personalized writing ritual can prime your mind and clear away distractions so you can more easily slip into a state of creative focus.
By doing certain things before every session, you create triggers that send cues to your brain that it’s time to write. You can also incorporate tasks that remove as much resistance as possible, create optimum conditions, and set you up for success from the get-go.
To create your own writing ritual that will help you get into the zone and write faster, here are some elements to consider.
Recipe for a Writing Ritual
Time + Place
Your environment can have quite an effect on your sense of focus and can even provide some inspiration. For some writers, having a dedicated spot in their home where they go to write is preferable, such as an office or even just a desk. When they sit there, it sends a message to their brain that it’s time to get to work. Others like to move around depending on their mood – the kitchen table, the floor, the sofa, in bed. And then you’ve got writers who prefer to write in public spaces, such as a coffee shop.
You may be a mixture of all of these depending on your mood. (That’s me personally.)
Make your environment work for you. Does the feeling of sitting at your desk put you into a state of mind that it’s time to write? Do you feel like getting cozy on your sofa under some blankets? Maybe you’re craving the energy of others or simply feel less distracted by all the things you need to do at home when you’re writing somewhere in public. Get in tune with what you need and make your location work for you. Sometimes, a change in location (even just moving to a different room) can make a BIG difference.
Think about the time of day that you work best in, as well. Is your creativity its sharpest first thing in the morning? Late at night? If you aren’t sure, try out different times to see which one feels best to you. Under what circumstances do you feel most focused and inspired? When it comes down to it, we may not always have the opportunity to write at our preferred time and place, but when you can, take advantage of its power to lessen resistance and fuel your creativity.
If you do have a dedicated writing space, make it your own. Surround the area with things you love – decor, artwork, mementos, books, inspiring quotes. Whatever makes you feel at home and inspires you. Take some time to pour some love into your writing space so that every time you enter it, you instantly feel its good vibes.
Also, before every writing session, set the mood. Light a candle or burn some incense, turn on an oil diffuser, put on some ambient noise or listen to music that transports you to the world of your project. They are simple things that are surprisingly powerful.
Something as simple as being uncomfortable can throw you out of whack and distract you as you’re trying to write, so as part of your ritual, make sure you are ready to settle in. Sit somewhere comfortable, keep warm (if you can’t control the temperature, have a sweater or blanket handy), and fully hydrate yourself beforehand. Keep some water or your favorite beverage at hand so you don’t have to get up to get it. (Plus, it’s a nice creature comfort that can be a fun part of your ritual – making a cup of coffee or tea can be a trigger that it’s time to write. Put it in a pretty mug for bonus points.)
Block out the world. Let important people know that you won’t be available for the period of time you’ll be writing and then put your phone on silent, preferably out of reach if you tend to grab it a lot without thinking. If you’re easily distracted, have a pair of headphones ready to go and some playlists for music that you know will fill the space in your noisy mind without distracting you further. I often play loud music on a pair of headphones that cover my ears to block out the world and keep my unruly thoughts at bay.
Is there anything you need to do first so it won’t be nagging you in the back of your mind while you’re trying to write? Some things you can put off until after you write (otherwise, you’re just using them as an excuse to procrastinate), but if it’s something important that’s legitimately bothering you, get it done first.
Keep inspiration around you for your projects such as a mood board and music playlist. It may be a helpful part of your ritual to look at your project’s mood board before you get started. Watching movies and TV shows or reading passages from books beforehand that are similar in nature can be helpful, too.
There could be other things that put you in an inspired state that aren’t related to your project. Taking a walk in nature, doing something physical like exercise or dancing, or engaging in another creative activity that isn’t writing to get the juices flowing without the same kind of pressure. Figure out what typically puts you in an inspired state and harness that power.
All of these rituals are meant to help you clear your mind and get into the right state to access your creativity, but there are a few more things you can do to take it a step further. If you find that you have a lot of blocks or anxiety around writing, take at least 10 minutes before a writing session to focus on getting your mindset in the right place.
Meditation is a great way to disconnect from negative thought patterns, ground yourself, and realign with your truth. If you’re thinking, “I can’t meditate because I can’t quiet my thoughts,” then don’t worry – you don’t have to shut off your thoughts in order to meditate. The purpose of meditation is to become mindful of your thoughts, not get rid of them. I highly recommend trying short guided meditations to get a good introduction to the practice. The apps Headspace and Calm both have wonderful (free) guided meditations for beginners.
Breathing exercises, affirmations, and inspiring reminders can also help calm anxiety and combat blocks that are keeping you from fully enjoying the writing process.