Thursday, June 3, 2021

PreWriting Rituals

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Do you have any pre-writing rituals? On any given day, I don’t. But when I’m about to begin a big project, I absolutely do. 


As you read these words, I am up to my roots in revisions. Some people love revisions, but I have to admit that they are not my favorite (see this post for my thoughts on that process). 


But I’ve learned over the past decade of writing that there are ways to set myself up for success, and it has a lot do with the environment around me as I write.


If you’ve never thought about it, today’s the day to start. It’s good to know what helps you get in the correct headspace for writing or editing, and if you know what you like, you can start to train your brain to work efficiently when certain conditions are met.


Don’t get me wrong. While under deadline pressures, I have written entire chapters in rooms where small children have been singing classics such as Baby Shark and The Finger Family Song (In case you’re unfamiliar with these, I’ve included links for your listening pleasure. You’re welcome.) But when the opportunity presents itself for me to write in a way that is most effective, I take advantage. 


Here’s what I do. (Reminder: this is what works for me. Your mileage may vary).


1. Call on the Creator. This morning, I read A Liturgy for Writers of Fiction out loud. I spent time in prayer and have asked others to pray for me. There is no more important way to begin. 


2. Clear the mental clutter. For me, this means that I clean my house. I know. Some of you just shut down on the spot. Here’s the thing - I can, have, and will in the future ignore housework for the sake of word count. But if I can swing it where my house is neat and the laundry is caught up before I sit down to write, I absolutely will do that. People who aren’t wired this way will tell you that it’s a waste of time. To just ignore it and focus on the words. If you can do that, be my guest. But lingering chores and piles of laundry are mental clutter in my brain. Clearing that out frees me to focus and create so the time spent is totally worth it.


Counterpoint: This does not mean tackling the bathroom tile with a toothbrush. Therein lies madness, or, more to the point, procrastination at a professional level. When I start wanting to empty the fridge and wash ever single shelf, I call myself out because that’s an epic stall tactic. 


3. Make it look nice. After you’ve tidied everything, or even if you haven’t, turn on some twinkle lights (I have 3 sets in my office - one over my desk, one over my chair, and one over my white board). Light some candles. I love battery operated candles that flicker. Put up pictures that make you smile. Or stick motivational quotes or Bible verses with that are meaningful to you around your computer. Set your background image with images of your characters or nature settings that inspire you. Whatever you need to make the visual area around you calming and conducive to creating, do that. 


4. Make it smell nice. If you can do real candles, burn some lovely ones. Scents are powerful triggers for our brains, and you absolutely can train your brain to focus when it recognizes a specific scent. I diffuse essential oils. I’m very sensitive to smells and some give me a headache, but with essential oils I can control the strength and mix up the scent every few hours if I want to, so this works great for me. 


5. Make it sound nice. I love white noise and the sounds of water, so right now I’m listening to a tiny desktop fountain that’s set up behind me, and a fan beside me. I will also listen to film scores, ocean waves, or playlists I’ve created that go along with my books, depending on my mood. If you prefer to write in coffee shops or restaurants, Spotify and other music streaming services have albums of “coffee shop sounds” that will make it feel like you’re writing in public, even if you’re sitting alone at your dining room table. If you’re writing in a house full of people, invest in some noise cancelling headphones or make sure your AirPods are charged so the only sounds you here are the ones you want to hear.


6. Make it taste nice. For morning writing, this usually means hot coffee. I own a coffee mug warmer so I can keep my coffee hot while I write. For some of you, a small kettle and some tea is what’s called for. Later today, I’ll switch to iced tea and I have some rug mugs ready for whatever beverage lands on them. For snacks, I usually have a stash of individually wrapped chocolates, peanut butter M&Ms, and chocolate covered espresso beans. Some people prefer gum or mints. Whatever makes you smile, go for it!


7. Make it feel nice. A few years ago, I splurged on an expensive office chair. A few weeks ago, I purchased a foot stool so I can be sure my posture is correct. I have fans and sweaters and alarms set on my phone with reminders to get out of my chair and take care of my body with stretches and yoga poses because it’s hard to create when you’re uncomfortable or in pain. 


Can you write anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances? Sure. But taking the time to find out what wakes up your muse and settles your creative spirit will pay off in word count later. 


Feel free to share your personal writing routines with us in the comments! It’s always fun to see what others do! 


Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Lynn’s titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Her newest series kicks off in March 2021 with Unknown Threat, Book 1 in the Defend and Protect series. 

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and @LynnHBlackburn on BOOKBUBFACEBOOKTWITTERPINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of great advice to help us get out of the starting gate with our writing. Thank you, Lynn!