I’m sure you have all heard the phrase, “creatures of habit.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines the phrase as the following:
“someone who always wants to do the same things in the same way”
There are some very good evolutionary reasons for this: good habits save us time and mental energy. They help us in negotiating the world, freeing our minds to invent things like fire and computers. On the flip-side, however, our hardwired ability to form habits also makes us vulnerable to picking up self-destructive patterns, too; things like smoking, or drinking, or becoming addicted to checking our email over and over. For the last three months when I sit down to write, I myself have had to fight the urge to pour myself a 44oz. cup of soda or grab candy bars two at a time while sitting at my writing desk. Habits can be both good and bad.
Writers are people who tend to be disciples of habit. I can’t say that I know one, single writer who does not utilize some pattern or ritual as they write. Writing rituals are personal habits, which generally make no practical sense to writing, but that people routinely perform when they are faced with a writing task. These habits are typically related to the time one writes, or the environment in which one writes, and/or one’s behavior while writing.
For example, writing rituals based on time determine either how long of a time period you spend writing, or the perhaps the time of day at which you write. Writing rituals can be related to environment like a particular location (i.e. bedroom, park, beach, tree house) in a certain condition (i.e. clean, messy, secluded, populated, noisy, quiet). Behavior-based writing rituals are repeated actions performed (without direct attention) either before or while writing, which often are idiosyncratic or monotonous (i.e. filling up a drink, pencil sharpening, organizing your writing space, etc.)
How Do Writing Rituals Help?
Ease the writing process: Writer’s block is a common problem that writers experience. Writers can lessen the horrors of writer’s block with writing rituals, which make beginning easier.
Decrease Stress: The nature of writing itself, tends to produce significant stress, which can lead to procrastination. The fear of rejection or failure can corrupt the writing process because writers are expecting immediate writing perfection – it just doesn’t work that way. Developing writing rituals allows people to place themselves in a familiar atmosphere each time they write. This familiarity creates a writing comfort zone and thus gives people self-confidence.
Increase Power: Because there are usually outside factors which determine writing projects and deadlines, writers usually feel that someone else controls them. By developing writing rituals, however, writers can govern their writing situations in order to regain a sense of control.
Tips for Improving your Writing Confidence
Look at some of your previous stories that you consider a success. Try to analyze and apply writing methods that worked well on those projects to the current project you are writing. If none of these strategies seem helpful, recognizing your achievements on your past stories will give you confidence in writing the one at hand.
Discuss your ideas with other successful writers. People so often get the wrong impression that writers are solitary creatures. But this simply isn’t true. The truth is writers love – and need- to talk to other writers. Talking to other writers will give you peace of mind in knowing that your thought process is heading in the right direction. Also, these conversations will likely stir additional ideas to strengthen your future endeavors.
Discuss ideas with your friends and family. This practice will help you put your thoughts for a given project into words, which, in turn, will ease getting your thoughts on paper. Moreover, such a discussion will catalyze your thinking of other ideas. With plenty of thoughts and an idea of how to convey them, you will feel better about beginning to write.