There is a certain amount of weight attached to the word “ritual.” To me, it implies something vastly different from words like “routine” or “habit.” Unlike brushing your teeth or watching TV before bed (activities that I would label as routines/habits), rituals are almost sacred. They require a certain level of mindfulness and focus in order to successfully create their intended effects. Before engaging in Tharp’s discussion on creative rituals, I never thought of writing as an activity that would be accompanied by such a practice. But just like athletes go through pregame rituals to signal that it’s time for competition, I’m now convinced that writers should go through pre-writing rituals to signal that it’s time for creativity. Doing so can serve as a catalyst for tapping into the most creative parts of our thinking.
With that being said, pre-writing rituals will look different for each writer. It’s important to discover the most helpful ritual for you. Identifying what that looks like takes a lot of work. As I read through Tharp’s piece, I wondered what kinds of rituals I could engage in to support my writing process. I tinkered with some ideas pertaining to my setting and to my sensory environment, but then I realized that I’ve been engaging in a writing ritual ever since I started college: listening to music.
I don’t just put my music library on shuffle when I write; I’m actually pretty intentional about the type of music that I listen to as I’m writing. As I’ve done this, I’ve discovered that finding the right music to accompany my writing can be a powerful thing. For example, I’ve done a lot of retrospective writing throughout my college career. I often write about personal stories or past experiences that I find worth revisiting. There have been times, however, when I have a lot of difficulty placing myself back in these moments. To help me overcome this challenge, I play the music that I listened to during that corresponding period of my life, and suddenly, my past feelings and memories become much easier to access. I might write about past experiences in my Capstone project, so keeping this ritual in mind will be helpful as I move forward. I would recommend trying it to anyone who is reaching into their old memories in their writing.
Even when I’m not recalling past experiences, I still find the right music helpful for getting my mind in the right place for creativity. There’s a post-rock band called Explosions In The Sky that never fails to get my creative juices flowing. Their music contains no lyrics – just rhythms and sounds that I can casually listen to without too much effort. For whatever reason, listening to their songs takes the edge off of writing. It becomes less stressful, and writer’s block becomes easier to overcome.
Everyone is intimidated by the “empty white room” that Tharp so artfully brought to life in her writing. For me, finding the right soundtrack, the right aesthetic, and the right musical energy makes the empty white room a little less daunting. As we begin out Capstone Projects, the blank, empty pages are right in front of us. I hope that we can all find the right rituals to aid us in turning them into our best work.