Writing Rituals

I have a writing ritual, which helps me get into the ‘zone’ so I figured fellow writers might too…and they do, as you will see.

I like a pot of decaf coffee on hand; I burn joss sticks to put me in the writing frame of mind; I have Classic FM playing quietly in the background (because if I play contemporary music, I end up singing along and dancing, when I should be working); finally, if it’s cold, I like a hot water bottle tucked into the small of my back.

On days when it’s not going well, I graze on biscuits, crisps, cheese, chocolate, blueberries, hard-boiled eggs – quite simply, anything I can lay my hands on that can be munched immediately. This is a ritual of which I am not proud.

Here are some other writers’ rituals:

Rhoda Baxter – writer of smart, contemporary romantic comedies

Mine are very boring, I’m afraid – cup of tea, heated bean bag and mobile phone at my elbow to keep an eye on Twitter.

Each new book starts life as a list of scenes (which will change) written on a pad of lined A4 paper, in pencil. I’ve tried different paper and different pens, but none of them ‘feel’ right. If that makes any sense.

Anita Burgh – is the author of several bestselling novels

I work in chaos, tidiness makes me uncomfortable. I can work anywhere, I don’t need silence.

There was a time when I was plagued with rituals. It was imperative that I had yellow, A4, legal pads. Since I was living in France and could not find them I had to import from England – a dozen at a time. They were stacked up – a constant reminder to “get on with it.” I wrote in longhand with black ink and an italic pen. Without these three things – paper, ink and the pen I could not write a word.

And then I damaged my right elbow and could not write but could tap on a keyboard – it was a revelation and I never went back to longhand.

One thing, however, I have kept to – I cannot tell anyone what my book is about, if I do I am convinced the book will be ruined.

Julie Cohen – writer of smart, contemporary women’s fiction

I make soundtracks to my books of songs that suit the mood or the story, and I always play them while I’m writing. Sometimes I play them when I’m running or driving, too, and that helps me get into the story world in my head so I can plot or plan as I’m doing other things.

Cara Cooper – writer of heart-warming contemporary women’s fiction and regular short story writer for women’s magazines

Firstly, I have a huge amount of energy and inspiration for writing first thing in the morning. The period between sleep and wake is when my subconscious works so that when I wake and I am ready to get things down on paper that lasts for about 2 to 3 hours. Anything after that is completely an uphill struggle.

I need to have constant coffee on the go and total silence. Music or any other noise just doesn’t do it for me if I am at home. I have however successfully written in coffee shops where there is a constant low-level noise which in some ways is similar to silence. I like grapes when I am writing because it is easy to pick on those without one’s fingers getting mucky, so you can still write at the same time!

Claire Dyer – writer of poetry and thought-provoking novels

I write in the mornings: no music, just my cats and black coffee for company. 1,600 words = 1 boiled egg and soldiers.

Beth Elliott – writes about adventure and romance in Regency times

I begin writing about 10.00pm, when I’m sure nobody will disturb me. Sometimes it can get to 2.00am before I notice, although often the cat asks to go out for the night about midnight. Music is a helpful stimulus – a lot of Chopin, classical guitar, or if I’m dealing with a big hero moment, some fine singing from Barihunk Ildebrando d’Arcangelo. And then there’s Tarkan. And if inspiration falters, tea and two Rich Tea biscuits help. Maybe the chewing wakes the brain up again.

Janet Gover – writer of contemporary romance, set in her native Australia

I have no food in the house (or not much) when writing. I spend the morning faffing about on the internet, pretending it’s research. Then comes lunchtime and I have to walk to the supermarket to buy food for
lunch and dinner. It’s about a mile each way. By the time I get back, the next scene is in my head and just flows out…

There are also many cups of tea involved.

Jenny Harper – writes compelling contemporary stories about modern women

I have to set up ergonomically because of back and shoulder problems – no more lolling around with a laptop on my knees!

I like SPACE. I can’t work in my den if it’s untidy (which it often is because I’d rather write than tidy up). If I do, I like to face out into the garden if I can. I have slatted wooden blinds to take off the glare (remember sunshine?). Otherwise, I try to beat Robin to the dining room, which has a door to the garden and is the one room I usually keep really tidy. It’s a spacious, calming room and I can just feel my mind opening up. Also, there’s an open gas coal-effect fire in the winter, which is very comforting.

No music. I get too easily distracted.

Janie Millman – author and proprietor of the fabulous creative writing course centre, Chez Castillon, SW France

By preference, 6.00am – in the library, with a mug of lapsong souchong laced with whiskey – peace and quiet, apart from the little street outside waking up and the almost unendurable smell of freshly baked bread and croissants – at that point I move onto coffee. You can picture the scene!

But…in reality…planes, trains, buses, cafes and most recently – hospital waiting rooms!

PS…only kidding about the whiskey! And sometimes the tea is crap French breakfast tea! Nice thought, though!

Please, if you have any rituals you’d care to share, do confess them here.

5 thoughts on “Writing Rituals”

  1. Yay. I share a writing ritual with Annie Burgh! Actually, I might try the soundtrack idea. I used to revise listening to Tubular Bells on loop. It drowned out the background noise and I was so used to it I didn’t really hear the music itself anymore. The nursery rhymes tape in the car has the same effect, come to think of it…

    1. You made me laugh, there! Actually, a chap I know who is a hypnotist, tells me that when a person is driving, the mind comes very close to a state of trance. Which is why we can sometimes think, after a journey, I don’t remember driving through so-and-so… I find that rather worrying.

  2. I’m amazed at anyone eating hard boiled eggs to aid writing, yeuuurgh!!! Grapes are the closest thing I can get to chocolate but at least they are sweet and low on calories.

    1. You are a very good girl, Cara, to avoid grazing on unhealthy food. On a bad writing day, I can pretty much consume anything. And do. Look at Claire Dyer – for her, egg and soldiers becomes a reward!