We all have our writing ritual–things we do to get in the zone and make the words flow. I start by tidying my desk space to remove distractions. Then I’ll light a candle or burn some sage or palo santo, put on some music, and quietly absorb the ambiance I’ve created for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll also make coffee or tea, or have a glass of wine.
But some days, you can do everything to set the right mood, but the magic still doesn’t happen. The words are still stuck. So what’s the problem?
In my case, it’s usually a sign that the scene I’m working on isn’t quite right. Maybe I have two characters agreeing when they should be fighting, or they’re going further out of their way than they need to.
But it can also be a sign that your writing ritual needs a little adjustment. It took me a while to nail down what exactly I needed to change to get the juices flowing again, so I wanted to share some of the things I use to get into the writing mood in case your ritual needs something different.
It took a few months of trial and error to find the best place for my desk. The biggest obstacles were the blinding morning light coming from the window, the lack of overhead lighting, and where all the power outlets are. I ended up angling my desk into the corner by the window so I still get lots of natural light without it causing a glare on my screen or blinding me. Also, the rest of my office space is behind me, so there are fewer distractions in my line of sight.
Comfort was another big thing. While I loved the freedom a wireless mouse and keyboard afforded, I was often replacing batteries. Neither was particularly ergonomic, either. I’ve since switched back to a wired keyboard and upgraded to a vertical mouse.
I would also consider buying a pair of compression gloves to wear while I type part of my writing ritual. Between tendonitis and poor circulation, my hands can stiffen up and ache while I write.
Candles and Incense
Because sage and palo santo can be overwhelming scents to others in the house, I don’t leave either burning for long periods. If it’s cool enough out to crack open my window, I only burn them for a minute or two to kind of “wake up” the air in my workspace.
For more lingering scents, I have a lot to choose from thanks to Mythologie Candles. I found them through Instagram last year and I’ve bought many since. Rather than smelling like a specific fruit or flower, Mythologie Candles are inspired by folklore and fantasy. Each one evokes an immersive setting. My favorites for writing:
- Cave Troll – My go-to writing candle because it smells like a forest on a cloudy day after the rain with a hint of musk. Excellent when paired with rainy day ambient noise.
- Droppin’ Eaves – From the Spring In The Shire Collection, this blend of honeycomb, vanilla, and florals inspired me to write a perfume in my novel with a similar scent.
- Blood Moon Sky – Bergamot is my favorite smell of all time, but mixed with musk and mulled black cherry, the whole effect is dark and sultry, inviting and mysterious. Perfect for writing the escpades of my cast of thieves and criminals.
I used to have a carefully curated music library for writing. Back when I only had my laptop, I filled my iTunes library with movie and video game soundtracks, albums by instrumental groups who often produce the music used for movie trailers, and others.
But like most people, now I just stream music online. For writing, I usually go for 10-hour loops of Skyrim ambient music on YouTube or a Danheim-based station on Pandora. If I know a specific song or soundtrack that suits a specific scene I’m working on, it’s never more than a click away.
But this is the first part of my writing ritual to turn stale. It’s also the most distracting to fix since YouTube can take you far down the rabbit hole if you’re not paying attention. I keep my focus on the ambient mixes other users have created. It can take a little while to pick one, however. Sometimes an enchanted forest playlist inspires me more than dark academia sounds, even if my characters are nowhere near a forest.
What activities are part of your writing ritual?
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