Keep Your Writing Focused with a Morning Ritual

Why establish a ritual, a certain way of doing things in a specific order, for writing? Because one of the things that you want to do is enter that highly enjoyable flow state where the writing just comes. Establishing a ritual helps you self-hypnotize and enter that flow state both more quickly and more easily.

Image for post
Image for post

Remove obstacles the day before. Lay out the clothes you’re going to wear, and the parts of your morning that you can. Charge your phone overnight. Get the trash out so you don’t have to dash out in your pajamas in the early hours. Give yourself a clean kitchen to fix your breakfast in, rather than a mess that you either have to work around or clean before you can make your meal.

Think about what obstacles may present themselves and try to avoid them. If you’re sharing space with other people, it may be good to have a specific visual signal that says you are working and should not be interrupted. If you think the cat is going to come in midway through your session and demand food, either feed the cat beforehand or arrange with someone else to do it.

Get up at the same time each day. Going to bed around the same time as well is a good idea, but the getting up seems the more crucial of the two. Have a routine that you follow when you get up.

Avoid logging onto the Internet or checking your phone. This is one of the single most productive things you can do, or at least i have found it so. This is because — for me at least — it’s hard to just browse Twitter without interacting it, without liking and RTing or otherwise responding, not to mention clicking through to interesting links and getting lost in the read. Save that for something that you can use to reward yourself later, and you may even find yourself working a little harder in your desire to get to that social media break.

Eat. Coffee is certainly important, but include some protein and some non-coffee liquid, like a glass of juice. I find that setting up food beforehand is one of the nicest things that I can do for myself, so I don’t have to worry about what I will be fixing. Currently my spouse is sharing workspace, and we’re finding that having a breakfast together, with the table set, and a meal that is unhurried, is a nice way to compare our coming days and coordinate plans.

Do something physical while thinking about what you’re going to write. When not socially isolating, the gym is a good place for this, but nowadays you may want a long walk or an exercise session in your living room. Give your body some activity to wake it. I miss my gym’s rowing machine, because it was a good activity that kept my body busy while giving me time to think about the scenes I’ll be working on.

Continue to avoid logging onto the Internet or checking your phone. This really is pretty crucial.

Enter your space. Part of removing obstacles the day before is to tidy your workspace so you don’t have anything that gets in the way of you sitting down to write. You may want sensory cues, such as particular music or sounds (I like whalesong) or a scent diffuser that you can turn on. My spouse has asthma so I don’t burn incense, but that’s certainly a possibility. Instead I have a scent diffuser with rosewater in it, since that’s a favorite scent.

Now I’m going to get a bit New Age-y, so your mileage may vary here. As you’re entering, acknowledge your space and announce your intent, saying something like I’ve come here to work, today I will do (goal).

Now work. Perhaps timed writings, perhaps journaling, perhaps moving from project to project, but continuing to do that rather than checking the Internet. You may want to set yourself a time or word limit and allow yourself stretch breaks in between sprints. I find the site 4thewords is a fun way to goad myself along to write just a few more words.

Close with gratitude. Again, a little New Age-y, but saying, that you’re done and thanking yourself for the good work you’ve done is not going to kill you, and may actually become a habit.

World Fantasy and Nebula-nominated speculative fiction writer/editor. I read and write a lot.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store