This is what my writing routine looks like.
Okay, so I just have to make myself write anyway. How do I do that?
I have a routine. Better to call it a ritual, actually, because often my routine gets interrupted (life!) but I can recapture the feeling of stability by ritualizing everything.
When my rituals are reliable, it’s a bit easier for me to write through/beside the icky feelings of doubt.
Whenever I am writing at a desk, I sit down and arrange my stuff like one of those ladies at the Bingo hall who brings all of her lucky charms, plastic figurines, and coloured dabbers to the game.
These are some of the rituals I created for my Radiant Shimmering Light years:
I stuck up a quote from Hafiz that says, “AN AWAKE HEART IS LIKE A SKY THAT POURS LIGHT.”
I wrote with my white Safari Lamy pen, given to me by writers at my Lemon Tree House retreat a few years ago. Blue-black ink.
I put up this postcard, by an artist I do not know. The image perfectly shows how it feels to be writing a book. →
I played Juliana Barwick’s album, Nepenthe. Also Tracy Chattaway playlists on Spotify.
I lit a stick of sandalwood incense.
I wore a writing uniform: black leggings and denim shirt. Often I also put on lipstick.
I put on a quartz crystal pendant, the kind Lilian would have liked.
I drank a mug of chai tea OR green tea (depending on the season, winter or summer respectively).
I lit a scented candle.
For writing of the final act, I found I needed more help than the usual rituals. I had to push Lilian into things that were beyond what I could imagine. For those final scenes, I made myself a crown made of silk flowers. After going through all of the rituals above, I would finally put on the crown, and then sit down to write.
I know — Catholic upbringing, much?
Rituals are important because they give us an illusion of certainty, so we feel courageous enough to stay curious and write into uncertainty.
I’m starting from scratch now, and the music, the quote, even the postcard — all of these talismans feel like they belong to my last book. I am going to need new ones.
I’ve started with a new ink colour (navy blue) and a new journal (unlined). I still like wearing the same writing uniform.
I don’t have a story yet, so I’m back to the beginning — writing lists of words, details I notice about people, fragments of dialogue, images from my dreams.
In the Story Intensive, I’ll be starting from scratch along with our students. It’s all about writing with the weird doubts, staying curious, and feeling surprise and delight as you write what you don’t know.
If you’re Story Intensive-curious, feel free to reach out to email@example.com.