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Book Writing Rituals: Do They Matter?

As I mentioned before in what might be called my book writing for beginners post, I’ve done a lot of reading about how to write. In fact, prior to the last three years, the ratio was probably something like 10:90, with with “learning how to write” completely dominating actual word counts.

Oh well, I got over it. And this is not to say that I learned nothing of value from the reading I did. I love to hear authors and writers discussing their writing habits–not some so much their word count and font preferences, but their actual writing rituals.

Some famous writers and their habits and preferences

John Cheever liked to write wearing only his underwear.

Stephen King likes to listen to AC/DC and hard rock while he works.

Haruki Murakami has listed physical strength training as a must for a writer trying to keep their stamina up during a long project.

Toni Morrisson has encouraged writers to write in surroundings where they feel they can think most clearly.

Hemingway started writing with the sunrise and quit writing as soon as he had nothing left to say that day.

My mistakes

So I could continue to put off my own writing, I “knew” that the rituals were the missing piece that I had been searching for. Of course I couldn’t get any writing done! There was no candle in my room!

Of course I couldn’t get any writing done! I was letting the sun rise without being poised at my desk!

Of course I couldn’t get any writing done! All I need to do was write in my underwear!

Fight the temptation to stall

If you’re having a hard time with writing output, I would gently suggest that you quit reading about writing and just get some writing done. It is so easy to pretend that we just don’t know what the proper words/day is for us, or what we should be wearing, or that there is some variable that would make writing so much easier for us.

Maybe there is, but for me, I was not able to discover what it was until I was writing consistently. That’s the key for me–if I write consistently, I can observe my productivity and quality. I don’t have to guess if the writing is coming easier or is becoming more difficult based on my habits. I don’t have to wonder if the ritual is helpful or not–if it helped me get more or better writing done, then I’ll say yes.

As it turns out, the only thing I can find that really benefits or hinders me is the lighting in the room. I like lamplight. I don’t like to write in the dark, but I don’t like to write under bright fluorescent lights. I can write with a pencil or pen, with a candle or without, dressed or naked–I just seem to do better with lamplight.

I could not have learned that without actually writing.

How about you? Anything that works especially well?

Josh

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