I heard some great advice recently, and it’s been working well for me this past week. It’s one of many useful practices from Ally Nathaniel’s “Productivity for Writers” session, in the Nonfiction Writers Conference (NFWC), a tremendously valuable presentation at this annual online event.
The idea is to create rituals to support your work. Simple things you do every time you write, habits that help you get into your focused flow state. Writing every day in the same place at the same time. Drinking coffee from your special writer’s mug. Listening to a certain kind of music, or a playlist of songs that work for you.
My Own Writer’s Rituals
So I put some thought into what my environment is like when I’m in a good flow for writing. When I just randomly walk into my office, listening to a podcast on my phone, I flip the overhead bare light bulb on and try to work, it feels like I’m only dropping by casually. Perching. I don’t settle in. I can’t seem to focus, and tend to wander off, either mentally, or physically. Maybe I should start my laundry, feed the cats, tidy up my desk…
So now I’m being more deliberate about it. I turn on three indirect “daylight” lights that create a whole different natural, open kind of energy to the space. I take my earbuds off, and set my phone on the charger instead of leaving it in my pocket. I put my favorite writing music on, playing through the speakers in my office.
It makes all the difference in feeling like I’ve settled into writing right from the start. Now I can achieve a flow in my work right away, rather than stumbling into that state randomly after hours of aimless fiddling around.
These actions are like bowing in. When we go to the dojo we put on our uniforms. Before we step onto the mat, in Aikido and other martial arts, we stop and bow. Those are rituals too–declarations of intent. Bowing in is a gesture of respect for the space, and it’s also an opportunity to set aside whatever daily concerns might be rattling around in our brains and commit to focusing on our training.
Bowing in works at the dojo. The same concept can be applied for writers in our work.