I got an email from a writer the other day who had questions about writing rituals. I’ve talked to a good many writers who have these same questions, and of course, I’ve also seen many of the articles out there on the writing routines and habits of famous writers. We writers seem to have a fascination with how other writers work. We want to know what their desk looks like and if it includes a view, what time they start working in the morning or afternoon, and if they do anything “special” to make the words flow.
This fascination we have with the work process (not the creative process, that’s something different, but the actual nuts-and-bolts procedure of another writer sitting down to work), this has always intrigued me. Why do we place such importance on the rituals other writers have in place around their work process? Why are we so hungry for these details?
Whenever I talk to a new client who’s come to me because they’re suffering the pain of blocked creativity, I start by drilling down into the values that motivate their creative life. In other words, the reason they want to be creative or have more creativity in their lives. Through this exercise with my clients, I’ve found that most of the time this remains a general, vague sort of idea to people who feel called to be writers or artists. We know we want to connect with our creativity on a deeper level, but when we examine why that is, we have a hard time coming up with answers.
When I first started writing, I couldn’t even call myself a writer. I had been NOT writing for seven years before I joined a silent writing program that I went to once a week to sit down and scrawl out a mess of pages that seemed to be all over the place, and which I had no hope of ever turning into anything good.
The other people there, in my eyes, were real writers. They had plans. They were finishing their memoirs, looking for agents, querying, seeking critique and feedback, swapping manuscripts. Me…I was just off by myself in the corner, too shy to talk to the group and too terrified to show anyone the pages I worked on so slowly and tortuously. Writing was hard for me, and it didn’t seem to be that hard for anyone else. I lived in constant doubt that this observation of mine proved I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.