Monday, January 28, 2013

Guest Post on Rituals

 I wrote this as a guest post on the fun and informative blog, Guidance For Writers Who Struggle to Get Started some times ago, and thought I would post it here as well. Do go to the above mentioned blog-there are some really good tips about handling procrastinating.

One of the principles of writing productivity that most writers, writing coaches, mentors, and researchers believe in is the power of daily writing. Simple statements such as, “writers write” typify this sentiment. Yet, in spite of having this knowledge, many writers and aspiring writers struggle with achieving the consistency of daily writing.  There are many tools that have been suggested for helping achieve the practice of daily writing, from starting each day with writing, ending each day with writing, or putting writing into your calendar and making it an appointment with yourself. For some, these work; for others, they may not make a significant difference.
Part of the reason for this is that these scheduling methods do not change anything about you. What you need is a method that helps make you need to write, and creates a negative internal consequence when you do not. In other words, you need your writing to take on the hallmarks of an addiction.
Do I mean that writing should make your life spin horribly out of control? Of course not. You need to make your writing into a positive addition, or a habituated behavior that is supported by environmental, psychological, and biological stimuli. When you engage in a positive addiction, you experience a sense of meaning. When you do not, you feel a sense of loss, and may actually experience biochemical changes, just like with a less positive addiction.
Sounds complex and time consuming perhaps, but its not difficult. One of the most powerful principles in addiction treatment is that rituals often support people's compulsive behavior, and can be used in creating behavioral change. 

What you need is to create behavioral rituals that support a dependence on writing. With drug addiction, or behavioral addictions like gambling, rituals set into motion powerful biopsychosocial triggers that compel one toward a substance or behavior. This is why creating rituals for yourself, simple habituated, routinized behaviors that you do prior to writing, can help you achieve the consistency you need.
Writing rituals do not have to be elaborate and involved, but simple actions that signify that writing is about to occur. Sitting in the same chair, placing the same blanket over you legs, turning off your phone (a must), and sipping on the same kind of tea is an example of a ritual that one can engage in. Done over time, these behavioral cues trigger the “readiness” to act, and create a movement toward action that almost has a compulsive quality. 
If you are skeptical,  devise a simple ritual for yourself prior to writing. Do it each day for two weeks, and see if you cannot make writing your positive addiction.

1 comment:

  1. I've just discovered your blog today, and I must say, I find it quite useful, and interesting to read (well, during my whole bunch of readings today, it has enabled me some break time;))
    just wanted to write down my appreciation..
    (btw, I am a MSSc student currently in the 'dissertation -hopefully- in progress' phase..)