Every successful writer I have talked to or read about has said basically the same thing, “You have to get into the habit of writing.”
In his wonderful book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about the need for aspiring writers to make a point of writing at the same time every day and that doing so reduces writer’s block. He says that the “muse” is more likely to come if it knows where you are.
I completely agree with this.
I wasn’t able to finish an entire manuscript until I began making time to write each and every day. I rarely have a lot of time available, but even fifteen minutes helps. In fact, I wrote the entire first draft of my first book in fifteen minute increments. It took forever—but I finished it!
But writing every day is only part of the writer’s habit. There are so many other habits that are helpful and, for me, necessary.
For example, in the morning I work out. I HAVE to work out. HAVE TO! My wife won’t let me go a day without exercising. Apparently, Robbie isn’t pleasant to be around when he hasn’t burned off some frustration.
So I work out for an hour after I get up. No big surprise there. You probably do the same thing.
However, for whatever reason, I can’t listen to the radio after I work out. I can listen to it while I’m driving TO the health club. But I can’t listen to it while I’m driving from the health club to my office. Why? I haven’t a clue. I’m a nut.
But I think it helps me write. You see, as I’m leaving the health club, I’m relaxed and my mind is calm. If I listen to the radio, my mind starts to get agitated again. I start to hear the music in my head, or the two sports guys arguing about last Sunday’s football game.
I need to have a clear mind when I approach the computer.
Here’s another odd ritual I have with writing. I can’t just turn on my computer and begin working on the manuscript. I have to do things a precise way. I turn on my computer, open the file containing my manuscript, and then . . . I have to look at the internet. I HAVE to look at a series of websites. I have to check my e-mails, scan ESPN, MSN, CNN, check to see if there are any cool jobs available in my field… and then, THEN! I can turn to my manuscript.
What is odd is that I have to do it in that order. I can’t turn on my computer, surf the web, open my manuscript, and then start writing. God only knows why, but I can’t. It is as if my manuscript has to warm itself on the glow of my computer screen before it is ready to bend to my evil will.
Interesting, I can surf the websites in any order I like. So I’m not a COMPLETE nut!
I also have to have hot tea when I write. And the tea usually has to be either green tea or Tea of Inquiry. I can’t seem to write when I’m drinking anything else. Further, the tea HAS to be in a certain mug. And the mug has to be in a certain spot on my desk. (Last year, the custodian broke my favorite mug and I couldn’t write for several weeks until I got “used to” my new favorite mug.)
Maybe I AM a complete nut. . . .
Additionally, I have to have my office a certain way. It has to be as dark as possible with a lone light (preferably a full spectrum bulb) shining on my keyboard. I have to have my back to the wall. And my desk has to be cluttered. I CAN’T WORK AT A CLEAN DESK! I don’t know why. That’s just how it is. Cleanliness distracts me. Clutter…good!
By the way, I just started using a desk that I stand at and it’s WONDERFUL! I highly recommend them. You’d think standing for three or four hours would be literally a pain. But it isn’t. Further, I find that I can concentrate longer standing than when I’m sitting. Go figure!
I used to burn candles when I wrote. The slightly flickering flame and subtle smell of melting wax really relaxed me. But one little fire in my office put an end to that. Honestly, people over react to everything in academia!
Anyway, I have to have all of these things in place in order to have a good writing session. And once I realized what I needed…it became much easier for me to write.
How about you dear reader? Do you have any writing rituals or habits? Or am I the only nut out there?