January 1, 2012

It’s New Years and so the talk turns to rituals and fresh beginnings.

“This year I’ll write more.” “This year I’ll read more.”

“I’ll finish that short story.” “I’ll send in my poetry.” “Edit more.”

“Share my work.” 

I’ll write.

In order to write, some folks need rituals. They can’t do without. Some folks, largely the newer of us writers, think that they need rituals. Maybe they do, maybe not. Here’s a group of writers I follow out of Austin TX who talk about their own writing rituals: American Short Fiction, contributors talk about rituals.

J.K. Rowling lore reminds us all about how she spent time in cafes writing away, as her baby slept in the pram. When in reality – JK herself says it was just too cold in her flat, so she went where it was warm.

A very wise poet, Taylor Mali has this to say when asked “Where is your favorite place to write?”

(should have been an embedded YT video, but I’m still learning about things)

TAYLOR MALI answers the question “Where is your favorite place to write?”



Yes, I do have a ritual.

Step one: music on an infinite loop, usually this one, with these Lyrics soaring around over me as I dig deep and hold tight to what it is I see and hear in my head.

But really, that first one is more a comfy pillow I lean against as I write. The ritual itself really is within these next three things:


I highlight every instance of these words: Was, Had, & Were.

I do this just to see how many times those bland verbs occur per page. Not to make any changes yet, but to learn about my own writing peculiarities. To see how pervasive those quirks really are.  I’ll work on remedying that later on.

I use MS Word, so the Replace & Highlight tool is the fastest way to go about this ritual.


The next ritual involves reading what pages I feel are done. I go over the printed-out pages with a pen. And I read it like it belongs to someone else. I guess you can say I read it with a blind eye to my own feelings. Pride gets locked in a desk drawer. Because, this ritual is a bit ouchy. I look for places where I’ve spotted the same word too close to itself. And I make notes that call out those repetitions (x1, x2, x3) – your page will end up with notes like this:

Her face came into view and he wondered again at that look(1x). It looked(x2) to him like he would always be looking(x3) for a face like that. That look(x4), so like his own.

Those, along with Hopper Painting on an infinite loop, are two of my rituals. If you feel you are a writer who is really in need of a ritual go ahead — try these two.

And if you have a writing ritual our your own you want to share for 2012 – please feel free to post in the comments.


Happy New Yer, and Happy Writing.




  1. Sherrie Nist Says:

    I’m a journalistic writer; I write articles, columns, personal essays, reviews, opinion pieces, all non-fiction. What I often do, when I have an idea for an article, is sit down with a pen and paper and write down everything that comes into my head about my subject matter, in no particular order, and with no editing, or judgement about it’s relevancy to my article. I just write, without stopping to analyze. These scribblings really come in handy when I sit down in front of my computer and actually begin to write the article.

  2. ejrunyon Says:

    I like that you have these notes, then go on to write the article as a new effort.
    A lot of new writers would have taken their ‘notes’ and used them as their ‘writing’. Not realizing the difference between the two: Ideas about the work — and — the Actual Work.
    It’s a good point for novices try and see the two are stand-alone objects in their writing.

  3. Kate Warren Says:

    I lack ritual. I also lack routine. That’s something I’m trying to work on this year. No concrete resolutions but I do have a few goals for the year. Step one is to actually write, which is hard to do when life keeps getting in the way.

    • ejrunyon Says:

      Thanks for commenting.
      I like your site. Consider a visual tracking of your daily writing achievements.
      A simple calendar does well. Seeing all the times you’ve written (or not) might help
      goose you into action.
      Also, don’t forget how much reading helps spark your own writing.

      Good Luck!

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