Let’s cozy up together…and talk about…writing rituals.
You might ask yourself: what’s the difference between a ritual and a habit? Well, habits are things we do every day without thought – drinking water, brushing our teeth, tying our shoes. Through repetition, these tasks have become effortless. Unlike habits, rituals are not passive. Rituals require mindfulness. Rituals are a choice we make, over and over again.
Writing rituals can be almost superstitious in nature, like football teams not washing their socks when they’re on a winning streak. When we find a particular ritual that works for us, we want to replicate that success by doing things the exact same way or in the same exact place.
Some people need to go to the gym to work out. Some people need to go to a studio to paint. Some people need to go to a church to worship. Having a dedicated space for writing is a ritual that’s always worked for me.
American sociologist Ray Oldenburg asserts that there are three places in life. The “first place” is home and the family or housemates we live with. The “second place” is the workplace and our coworkers. And the “third places” are anchors of community life. “Third places facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction…your third place is where you relax in public, where you encounter familiar faces and make new acquaintances.” [wiki]
Going to the library or a bookstore with a cafe created that “third place” for me to write. Home was for relaxing or cleaning. Work was for working. And my third place was for writing.
With the onset of a mass pandemic, second and third places have been eliminated for the time being. So…Where can we gather? Where can we form communities? Where can we foster creative spaces?
Rituals can and should enhance your writing, not hinder it. Rituals shouldn’t be static. They should be evolving practices. What worked yesterday might not work today and so on. In the past few weeks, with public places closing left and right, I’ve had to reevaluate where and how I write. The living room is now a writing space. The dining room is a writing space. My bedroom is a writing space. I’ve had to learn to be flexible in my rituals. Rituals have taught me it’s not the space, but what you make the space.
In many ways, writing is a lot like worship. Just as you would set an altar with a cloth to transform a mundane place into a sacred one, so too we must find ways to set apart the places we write. If we cannot physically transport ourselves to another place, we must find a way to transform the ordinary places in our lives to suit our needs.
This time of uncertainty has been a really good opportunity for me to reevaluate my rituals. To create new comfort zones. To practice mindfulness in my writing. To make the choice, again, to set aside the time and space to write. To reaffirm my commitment.
Rituals are a wonderful thing. They can bring significance to everyday tasks. They can create joy and meaning. They can spur us into action. They can reduce anxiety. They can raise confidence. They can alleviate grief. They can even shape our own self-perception. This week, I challenge you to alter your perception of your rituals.
I’m making my coffee and tea at home these days. I’m staying inside. I’m sometimes writing in my pajamas. I listen to my music without headphones. But the core tenants of my rituals remains the same. I sit with my laptop and mentally create the third space I need.
What writing rituals have you developed that work for you? What have you had to change?
Stay Safe and Stay Healthy,