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Forest North | Holistic writing and editorial support for writers at every stage of their journey. Nonfiction & all flavors of fiction welcome here.

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A blog focused on writing process, effective writing, effective narration, the writing culture at large, and supporting writers and authors as they do their best work.

Creativity-by-the-clock is not the only way.

Brenda Errichiello

I’m joining my colleague Sarah Hawkins of True North Business Management--and 12 other sage women--on the Mindful Habits Blog Tour, where we’re collectively sharing some strategies and advice around bringing more mindfulness to your work, especially for you creative entrepreneurs out there.

For my part of the tour, I’m sharing some thoughts about using ritual as part of your writing process to invoke mindfulness and create a sanctified space to do some writing--whether that’s website copy or your next great novel.

First, an admission: I am many things, but I am not a creature of habit.

In a lot of ways, I wish I were. Our culture rewards habituated behavior. We like to trot out habit and routine as the hallmark of “productive” humans. Articles that list “all the things you MUST do before 5:00 am every day to have any chance, ever, at being successful” get a lot of traction.

In writing-land, especially, this kind of advice is rampant: “You must write every day to be a successful writer,” or “If you want to write, wake up an hour earlier every day and get your X thousand words in before 6:00 am!”

Ugh, shoot me.

Honestly, at one point in my life, I really struggled to remember to take medicine every day. The fact that I now take my Vitamin D before I go to bed every night is kind of a victory...getting up at 6:00 am every single morning to do my writing isn’t ever going to happen.

And the thing I want you to know, if your life doesn’t automatically fall into routinized blocks, if something inside you dies inside every time you read an article about time management, if you are also not a creature of habit, is that it is okay.

Seriously, it is okay.

Writing isn’t inherently more valuable when it happens on a schedule or as part of a routine. And if you struggle with carving out the space to do the writing on a regular basis, you’re not alone.

You can still write successfully.

The reason that routine and habituation is trotted out as the secret to successful writing is because when we routinize ourselves, we have a Pavlovian response to our schedule. The bell rings, and we have a reaction.

It’s 9:00. Ding! Time for breakfast. It’s 10:00. Ding! Time for writing.

The advantage here is twofold: (1) when we link our actions to time, we routinize the mindset as well as the action and (2) the routinization approach can be broadly applied to everyone who exists as part of our shared space-time continuum--it's easy to market.  Everyone participates in time. 

And honestly, if that approach works for you, run with it.

But here’s the key: You don’t need to link mindset shift to time. You can link it to anything you’d like.

And that’s where ritual comes in.

At the core, ritual is about two things: action and intention. You perform an action, you identify an intention, you proceed.

It’s really no different than blowing out the candles on your birthday cake. You blow out the candles, you make a wish, and your birthday is thusly celebrated.

Writing rituals can look and feel like anything you’d like, but at the core, you need an easily repeatable action, and an intention. (Which, bonus! In this case it’s probably “I intend to write.”)

This does two things for you: first, it links the action of writing to something that is easier to accomplish with a little bit of willpower: lighting a stick of incense or a candle, making a cup of special writing tea, scenting your hands with a particular essential oil blend.

I generally light incense and sit in a particular spot with the door closed--the change in location and the smell of my chosen "creativity" incense triggers me into a spot where the words seem to flow.

The barrier to entry for small tasks is so much lower than “sit down and write the thing now,” and when you’re not sliding from one task to another as part of a set routine, this can be a huge advantage.

Second, it creates a natural barrier between your creative time, or your writing time, and the rest of your life.

The thing is, a set schedule or a habituated writing routine actually ISN’T a necessary precursor to creative writing, whether you’re writing a book or a website or a blog post.

What is necessary, though, is space. Space to think, space to let your mind wander. A bit of freedom from the mundane chatter of our minds and our day-to-day lives.

And that’s where ritual excels as a support pattern for creativity--we mark the time we’re using to do this important work in a way that sanctifies it. We attach an open mindset to a set of actions. We train our brain to respond when we smell, or taste, or hear, or feel a particular cue.

By designing a writing ritual for ourselves (and if you’d like some help with that, check out my free guide below), we give ourselves a method to create the kind of mindset that creative work flourishes in.

And, by linking it to a cue that is not a clock, we can take advantage of that tool whenever we need to, whenever the mood strikes, or at 6:00 am every morning, if you’d like to go that route.

There are as many ways to write as there are writers. The critical takeaway here is this: The best way to write is the way that works best for you.

So go find it. And maybe light a little bit of incense on your way.


Further Reading & Next Steps:

If you’d like my help with designing your own ritual, get your copy of my free guide here.

For some community around creating and sustaining your own mindful habits, join Sarah’s Facebook group. I’ll be hanging out for the next week, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

If you’d like more information about the blog tour itself, you can find that here.

In case you missed it, you can check out yesterday’s post by Allison Jones, E-RYT, in which she examines how Highly Sensitive People can survive in a world with constant stimuli. 

And please swing by tomorrow, when the post from Lexi Koch, Intuitive Transformation Coach, goes live. She’ll explain the benefits of checking in with ourselves throughout the day so we can take great care of ourselves