I have written previously about how rituals help in the writing process. Rituals can help us enter a space that separates what was “non-writing” from “writing.” Our rituals can ground us, helps us to be psychologically and/or physically prepared for the hard work that is writing. Rituals help us to shape our environment, for example, turning on a certain light that is conducive to writing. Most writers have rituals, and many attribute some of their rituals to their success.
However, for some writers, rituals can become a hindrance to the writing process. There are two fundamental ways that rituals can impede our writing: over-reliance on rituals and over-ritualizing. In two-park extended post, I explore how each of these problems can negatively affect your writing, and encourage each writer to assess whether they suffer from one of these impediments.
Over- reliance on rituals occurs when writers depend so heavily on their rituals that they can only write under specific circumstances and under specific conditions. The writer who can only write in one specific chair, or only during one time of the day can hinder his or her own writing by limiting the conditions under which he or she may write. For instance, a writer who can has convinced herself that she can only write in her comfy chair at home prevents herself from being able to productively attend writers conferences or retreats and use these to their fullest. Similarly, such a writer may limit herself from using free moments when she is does not have easy access to her comfy chair.
Yet what is most problematic about over-relying on different rituals, be they physical or mental, is the belief that your writing depends on anything other than your own creativity and hard work. Successful writers need to develop self confidence in their capacity to generate work (not to be confused with confidence in the quality of their work, which is another issue all together).
In order to overcome this problem, give yourself writing assignments where you engage in small bits of writing outside of your comfort zone. If you normally write during the evening, write for five minutes at lunchtime. What you write is not important; what is important is that you break your routine. If you only write with sharpened pencils on yellow pads of paper, try writing with a pen, or typing a computer, or even using a hand-held tape recorder. While these may never become your preferred method of writing, it is valuable to expand your behavioral repertoire to increase your confidence. An added bonus is that we tend to think differently when we use different tools, and may actually develop some new ways of approaching a topic or issue.