A recent conversation with author Ali Williams prompted me to think more about the concept of “ritual,” which one dictionary defines as:
- an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite
- a system or collection of religious or other rites
Ali and I were chatting specifically about rituals that help us create a sense of emotional and physical protection and well-being, and which goddesses and other figures we work with.
In my writing group, Wordmakers, we occasionally mention the rituals we’ve created — sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently — to invoke our creativity and support our writing time.
I write during the first half of the day. In its simplest form, my writing ritual is linked to my morning ritual: I brew a mug of tea or coffee, close the door to my writing room, and take my time sipping my drink and sorting through my thoughts. I need this quiet time, even if it’s only an hour, where I don’t have to do anything for anybody other than myself. Once my mug is empty and I’ve watched the sky change colors as the sun rises, it’s time to create a plan for the day.
Clipboards, colorful markers, and fountain pens help me with that planning. I need the dopamine hit of checking items off my handwritten to-do lists. I make separate lists for administrative tasks and creative projects, because some days I’m more left-brained, other days more right-brained, and some days, I’m blessed with both.
If it’s a writing or heavy editing day, I choose a fresh candle for my altar. As I light it, I invoke my muse, that palpable spark of creativity, and connect the external flame to my internal one. Often, I’ll choose a Tarot or Oracle deck and pull 1-3 cards depending on the question I’m asking, or the character or scene or plot point I’m seeking guidance on. I might light incense or fire up a smudge stick or add drops of essential oil to a diffuser if I think that will help draw me into the creative head space.
I keep crystals and other objects on the shelves near my desk. I’ve learned that some characters are more easily invoked if I hold something related to them, something they might have chosen. I had a witch character who came to life when I held a Hawthorn branch I was drying for my own wand. My chunk of purple Elmwood flourite helps when I want to free my imagination from constraints (reining that in is what editing rounds are for). And on days when the words aren’t exactly flowing, I have a stack of notebooks, a basket of stickers, and scads of markers to play around with. Working on a visual project, like drawing mandalas, often creates a channel for me to access those stuck words.
If I want or need the support of group energy, I drop into my online writing group or reach out to other writers. Having designated writing hours and reliable writing buddies has made a world of difference to my productivity and sense of community. Once we’ve connected, I’ll light my candle and do whatever else I need to before diving in.
Here’s a blueprint for creating your own rituals:
- Arrive and settle in. Even if your precious writing time is short, take a minute to settle into your seat.
- Center your body and your breath. Notice the weight of your bones. Plant your feet flat on the floor and wiggle your toes. Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders. Connect to and observe your inhale and your exhale for at least 3 breaths. Switch positions from sitting to standing as needed. Stay mindful of your body parts, especially your wrists, eyes, and lower back.
- Clear your writing area/Clear your mind. If there’s clutter in front of you and within your peripheral vision, straighten it. Empty your trash basket. Though some us need a certain level of “creative clutter,” there’s a difference between that, and stuff we’ve allowed to accumulate because we’ve been lazy or rushed.
- Begin. Open your notebook and start with writing down ideas or thoughts by hand. Open your Word doc, Scrivener file, whatever is your preferred app, and read what you wrote during your previous writing session. Edit softly if you need to but remember, this is your writing time.
- Move. Stand up and stretch. Hydrate. Go for a walk. What can you do to maintain your focus as you care for your body?
- Finish. A ritual of finishing your writing session can be as important as the one you do at the beginning. Save your work. Tidy your papers. Check off completed tasks. Add what you need to Post-it notes and place them where they’ll be seen. Wipe off your laptop and keyboard. Neaten your writing area. Remove any dishes you brought in. Thank your muse and blow out your candle.
Let me know if you tried any of these suggestions, and what other rituals works for you!