When you hear the word ritual, you’re probably thinking that it has to do with religion and a priest saying prayers and lighting candles.  But rituals are not just religious.  One of the definitions of a ritual is that it’s something done according to social customs or normal protocol.  If you do the same thing in the same order when you do it, like getting up or preparing for bed, then you’re following a ritual.  What are your rituals for creativity?

Me, Rituals and Nomar Garciaparra

I have had a very specific ritual for writing.  I’m an early-morning writer, so I get up around 5:30 and make coffee.  Part of the ritual is to bring my husband his coffee in bed–it’s a bribe to keep him in the bedroom because he’s an early-morning talker.  Then I sit in the living room surrounded by a couple of tables, with my notebook, pen, and laptop.  From there, I start writing for the next hour or two.

Everyone has rituals.  Some are famous, like Nomar Garciaparra’s famous at-bat ritual of glove fixing, digging in his cleats, and swinging his bat. Some are less well known, like Maya Angelou writing every day in a small hotel room.  Just as her husband would leave for work, she would also leave and head to the hotel room to write.    And Twyla Tharp, in her book The Creative Habit, talks about her ritual of getting up early to go to the gym, she gets dressed, goes downstairs, and hails a cab.  Once the cab has been hailed, her ritual is complete and she is on her way to warming up her body, which is what she needs, as a dancer, in order to create.

Why Rituals Work

The nice thing about rituals is that by following them, it not only keeps you on track.  It brings you into the moment.  Imagine being a famous ballplayer like Nomar, it must be nerve-wracking to walk up to the plate and know that everyone is expecting something big.  The ritual of adjusting the gloves, digging in his cleats, and swinging his bat helps to bring him right into the moment, to focus him on the job at hand.  According to Life Hack: Rituals Spell Anxiety Relief, rituals can reduce stress and anxiety.  By following the elaborate ritual before every pitch, he was able to create a pause that allowed his heart rate to drop and allowed him to de-stress.  He was then able to focus on the job at hand.

For me, the act of walking into the kitchen is the trigger that gets me moving in the direction of writing.  I follow the ritual every day.  I write every day.  Or at least I did.  Lately, this ritual has been failing me because part of it is broken.  My husband had shoulder surgery a few weeks ago and can’t sleep inbed yet. Instead, he’s on the recliner in the living room.  My writing area.  He’s a morning talker.  This isn’t working well.

I’ve been forcing myself to write.  Trying to find snatches of creativity while he’s sleeping off his pain medicine or at physical therapy.  It’s not the best scenario for me, but it works for now.  Guess, I’m going to need to create a new ritual for writing.  So I ask again, what are your rituals for creativity?