Helpful Rituals for Writing

  1. Copy writers I like- word for word. In the spirit of Pierre Menard as described by Jorges Luis Borges. This is when I copy, sometimes on the keyboard and sometimes by hand, paragraphs or pages of work that I enjoy reading. It helps me to appreciate what the writer is doing in their work. I do this to learn more quickly.
  2. Write notes by hand. Especially when I’m returning to a piece, whether days or months later, I’m reading and absorbing the material too quickly. In order to get into a certain piece, it helps to write the main points in sentences by hand, in my notebook.
  3. Change font, font size and document type, or device. When I’m revising work, it’s important to be able to see the work differently. Sometimes, making it look different can trigger off a different feeling about it, giving rise to new insights.
  4. Allow my curiosity to get away with it. I tell myself to read everything I can get my hands on, even if it doesn’t seem immediately relevant. A digression through internet browsing isn’t problematic- that’s how synthesis is done.
  5. Focus on one small section of my manuscript each day. It helps so much to focus on a small chunk of text for a few hours. This really helps me with fine tuning the work.
  6. Answer the “so what” question. What is the significance of my writing, and how does it contribute to the overall structure of my piece? Why should people want to read it? These are questions that I think about while envisioning what I will say in every single paragraph that I write.
  7. Drink coffee. This is helpful as a ritual to kickstart the day. 
  8. Write a letter to a friend. I have found that this is the best way to overcome formality and stiffness, and to bring about that conversational touch that I’m looking for in my writing.
  9. Use existing sentences as a springboard to explore ideas. I read every single sentence carefully, and let questions arise from that reading. What am I interpreting? Do I agree or disagree, and why or why not? What further ideas can be explored? What else does the reader need to know?
  10. Listen to music while writing. I find that listening to music helps a lot, because, it gives energy to my writing. The emotions that I experience while listening to music get me into a certain mood that is necessary for ‘the flow’ of writing to happen. 

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