Writing rituals to get you in the mood

Writer friends – do you have a writing routine?

I struggle with routines as my life is a touch chaotic at this moment in time. Working full time, raising a very willful and somewhat maniacal toddler, forging a self-published author career and surviving through a global pandemic do not make for an easy environment to form new routines.

So instead of creating a strict, or even flexible, writing routine, I’ve taken to creating writing rituals instead. Ways to trick my brain into switching from mum, or wife, or employee mode, into writer mode.

My writing rituals

Here’s a little list of steps I take to prepare for a writing session.

  • Make a cup of tea (or coffee, or another beverage of your choice).
  • Fill a small bowl with snacks (nuts, pretzels, chocolate, whatever you fancy) and either eat throughout my session or check emails and do prep until the bowl is empty, and then the writing MUST start.
  • Light a scented candle (the scent doesn’t matter, but if you have one that reminds you of your current WIP, then all the better).
  • Play music that creates a mood without being distracting (for me it’s folklore and evermore by Taylor Swift, every time)
  • Mute my phone (set your In Case of Emergency contacts and make sure they can still reach you when in mute mode)
  • Choose a word count or time goal and try to focus until I’ve reached it
  • Allow breaks, allow my mind to wander, allow a drink and snack refill if required
  • Be kind to myself if writing isn’t going well today, and be proud of myself if I hit my goal

That’s it. I don’t have a set time that I write, some days I’m a morning person, others (most others) I’m decidedly not. Some days I want to hit 1k words, other days 500 will absolutely do. Some days I can’t face writing at all, so I watch TV with my husband or read a short story and don’t beat myself up for needing a break after a long, stressful day.

What little writing rituals do you observe? Do you have a strict writing routine or more of a set of rituals to get you in the writing mood, like me?

Are you taking part in Camp Nano this April? I’m trying, as I always find NaNoWriMo gives me a motivation boost and I come out with more words than I usually would, but I’m being kind to myself and not making myself write every single day.

Good luck with your current WIP! Tell me about it in the comments.



Why changing your mind doesn’t make you a hypocrite

You’ve probably seen the “I was today years old when I learned” meme floating around the internet. It’s usually followed by some little-known or obscure fact of life, such as the best-before dates on beauty products (the little icon of a tub with a number on it represents how many months shelf-life the product has – I know, right! Mind = blown).

But when it comes to our opinions and beliefs – often founded on our parents’ and teachers’ own opinions and beliefs, as well as sometimes out-dated societal norms – it’s incredibly rare to hear an adult admit “I learned something new today and it changed my mind”.

It’s cool to be clever (and kind)

Is there an age at which the vast majority of our opinions have already been formed and we just stop taking in new information that could shape them? When does it stop being cool and start being embarrassing to completely change our viewpoint based on newly-learned info?

Stay open-minded and curious

Society loves putting us in boxes, forcing us into a grouping of people with similar thoughts and beliefs. Facebook is one of the worst places for it. If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix you’ll know what I mean.

The social network listens to what we like, it absorbs the posts we comment on and share, the people we friend and follow, and the pages and groups we join. And then it creates an echo chamber especially for us, a hall of mirrors reflecting back what we already believe – distorting it slightly until we don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction. But it’s too late, because we’re surrounded now, and nowhere is a challenging voice or a neutral commentator to be found.

Let’s normalise changing our minds when presented with new information.

A change could do some good

In the last twelve months, we’ve been through a lot. From George Floyd’s murder and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, to the Coronavirus pandemic and the rising abuse of the AAPI community, and the murder of Sarah Everard and the resulting #reclaimthenight protests. We’re tired of the systemic racism and misogyny that we’ve witnessed and experienced our entire lives. And it’s time to make a change.

Let’s face facts

It’s natural to feel defensive and push back when we hear something we don’t like or that shocks us, like the fact that 71% of women have been sexually harrassed, or that black women are 4 times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth, or that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. But instead of digging our heels in and insisting it’s all fake news, let’s dig deeper. Let’s find out the facts, read up on the story behind the statistic and educate ourselves before forming an opinion.

Changing your mind doesn’t make you a hypocrite. It actually makes you a pretty awesome human. So don’t worry about being called ‘inconsistent’ or ‘gullible’ or ‘lacking conviction’. As they say, ‘the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter won’t mind’.

What’s the last thing you changed your mind on? I think mine was Caroline Flack after watching the documentary on her life and death. It’s a moving watch if you’re interested. I also highly recommend watching Roman Kemp’s docu on male suicide, it really opened my eyes to the mental health crisis among men and young boys in the UK. Heartbreaking but really important viewing.



Why it’s OK to be bad at something new

I hate the term “overnight success”, don’t you? It’s never accurate, in fact statistically speaking, it takes around ten years for most of those people we deem “successful” to reach the point in their careers of being touted as an overnight success in the media.

That’s crazy, right? To have worked your arse off for a decade, grown your skills, built your brand and earned your success – only for it to be immediately reduced and belittled by the press who call it “overnight”, as though you hadn’t been killing it for years before you became a household name.

It not only completely disparages all the hard work of the successful individual, it also gives a completely false impression of achieving goals and getting recognition to those of us still reaching for that unreachable star. The concept of an overnight success can cause us to give up before we make it, because we start to believe that if it was meant for us – or worse, if we were “good enough” – then surely we would have made it by now?

But that just isn’t the case. If you want something, and you’re willing to work HARD for it, then there’s every chance you can achieve it. I’m obviously speaking from a place of privilege (as a white woman from a nuclear family with a parent who went to university before me), and I know that my experience isn’t everyone’s, but I want to believe that anyone can be who they want to be and do what they want to do. I want to live in a world where that is true, and I will fight alongside anyone who is working towards their big goal, whatever that may be.

How to be OK with sucking at something new

  1. Remember, there’s no such thing as an “overnight success”. Keep trying, keep aiming for your goal and don’t give up.
  2. Read more biographies and autobiographies about people you admire – you’ll soon realise they faced many of the same struggles as you on their journey towards success.
  3. Find your tribe – look for the people and groups online who are also working towards your same goal, open up to them and they’ll reassure you that the process is the same for every newbie (and hopefully they’ll encourage you to keep trying!).
  4. Get OK with being vulnerable. Share your attempts, admit when you fail – somebody somewhere is so inspired by you and your progress. Do it for the old you, the one who dared to dream and didn’t quite believe they could do it. You’re doing it!
  5. Remind yourself that you might fail one hundred times, but it only takes one time for you to succeed. Every single person who ever succeeded started as a beginner, overcame challenges, learned from failures, and eventually achieved their goal. One day, that person will be you.

Try, fail, try again, fail better

I have failed many, many times in my life. I’ve never hit 50k words during NaNoWriMo, I entered Pitch Wars with my first manuscript and didn’t get in, I queried around 40 agents and got some pleasant responses but not even a single full request. I kept writing, kept rewriting, kept sharing my journey here on my blog and on Instagram with the incredible writing and reading community over there, and just over a year ago I made the bold decision to self publish. And I haven’t looked back.

I certainly haven’t achieved my version of overnight success yet, but that’s all part of the thrill. Where do you go once you’re considered “successful”? I guess it becomes a game of maintaining it and living to everyone else’s expectations of you, and that’s just not as much fun to me.

Keep trying, dear reader. Never stop trying.