Ritual : Writing :: Key : Gate


I was all about process oriented work in my gateway project (see “Project Process” in my ePortfolio). The mindful territory you enter when focusing less on the destination and more on the journey is incomparable and personally productive in perhaps the lease “actually” productive ways. Twyla Tharp has, of course, schooled me because I failed to consider the impact that ritual can have on process.

Rituals are something that I have absent-mindedly practiced in my acting and singing: working out before singing, steaming, nebulizing, doing certain physical and vocal warm-ups to free the body for work, taking the time to do hair and makeup (or if you’re lucky, just pop on a wig) before a show. Each of these rituals open the gates between reality and the adopted reality of a show or audition. My rituals are ever evolving from situation to situation, and I hope they continue to do so as I learn and grow as an actor and human.

I was also raised to practice ritual before bed: bath, or shower, brush teeth, pajama set, tuck in, read a book, turn off the lights, set up all of my blankets and stuffed animals just right. Only then could I drift off into optimal sleep. Sleepovers took some getting used to for me, and even now I stumble home from a party at 3:00am and put myself in the shower before even considering hopping into bed (no more stuffed animals though, I’m afraid).

But what about writing? I could sing, act, sleep without rituals; it just wouldn’t be as fruitful. I feel that ritual is perhaps where my writing process lacks, and what could really set my creativity and productivity free.

I have come up with a small grab bag of ideas that could perhaps be  a part of my ritual as I try and unlock the gates between my everyday life and my writing:

  • establishing my writing spot somewhere in public (I can get a bit unmotivated in my own space and have been known to use spare mornings, afternoons and even evenings for cat naps) and including the walk to the destination as a part of said ritual
  • establishing a specific desk set up (I’m very big on paper products, pencils, pens, you name it)
  • or listening to the same song or playlist on my walk

If I am being quite honest, this is the first time I am making it a goal to make writing something ritual worthy. That sounds quite negative… and I don’t mean it in a harsh way, as I do really enjoy writing. But I realize that I often depend on writing deadlines for motivation. I wish I didn’t. I wish that I would write on my own accord as things come to me, wish that I would listen to the little ideas that pop in my head for an essay or the lines of a poem or song or collection and roll with it for no other reason than the fact that “I am a writer; I write!”.

Hopefully ritual will help me kill the little vampires in my head that tend to suck the life out of these little muses that I hear inside me (Count Self-Doubt). As the forming of any habit, it will take practice and failure and a little more practice and perhaps a little more failure.

Let’s do it.

6 thoughts to “Ritual : Writing :: Key : Gate”

  1. Allie, I love your mini rituals before starting to write, that ground you and set you in place to begin the process of writing. I am influenced by setting things in order and intrigued by the music. Personally, I enjoy silence and would imagine music being distracting, but would love to hear more from you about the kinds of music that you play and how you choose those tunes. Similar to your personality, I too run by deadlines to drag my thoughts out of my mind to get them on paper or on the Word doc. I imagine how this would impact us after graduation when we aren’t taking significant coursework and writing essays, mini posts, and reflections for grades. I am looking forward to reading more of your work and getting to know you this semester!

  2. Hey Allie, I definitely understand where you are coming from, it is something I’ve often done myself… relying on deadlines for motivation. I, like you, never really have given much thought to preparing myself to write. It’s interesting that while we view written word as an art form we do not practice it like one. I think it’s important that you bring up that a ritual can help to make our writing practices more like how one practices other art forms. I hope that you do find a ritual that helps you to create work as best you can, and that you begin to find joy with starting process of writing in this way. One part of the ritual you propose is walking to a public space. Could it be said that the ritual is the walk and not necessarily the space?

  3. I totally relate to this! I feel like sometimes ritual is just so inherent in our lives, especially because we study a subject that is so blatantly in the arts. There’s this mindset that if you don’t have rituals before a class or performance that somehow you’re less of an artist. I feel like in the performing arts we perform our rituals, even if we do them in private. I’m curious about the intersection of the performing arts and writing–after all, writing is a sort of performance too. Maybe if we think about it more along the lines of that, ritual will feel more natural?

  4. I like it that you compared writing to all of those other activities that people do as a ritual without question. I wouldn’t consider myself an actor, but I know that it’s best to have a warmup ritual, and that sleeping is usually better when you prepare yourself for it. I think that I, like you, struggle sometimes with seeing the things that I write as being worthy of a ritual. It seems like the kind of thing one should be able to just sit down and DO without any prep, but like anything else worth doing surely there’s a way to do it right? Maybe part of it is the repetition of whatever the ritual is; brushing teeth hardly feels like a ritual because it’s something we’re conditioned to do, so maybe sticking with the chosen ritual longer-term will help with the writing process.

  5. Hey Allie, really awesome ideas in your post I think. I especially like your point about how rituals are absent-minded to us in a way–we often complete them without being aware of the fact that we practice them so frequently. Going off your post, I’m wondering if you have any ideas of what, exactly, sort of public writing spot you would like. I’ve personally had success writing in a number of coffee shops and cafes, though that’s just my experience. Excited to see what you come up with!

  6. Hi Allie!

    I love that you brought in rituals that are currently part of your daily life. You know how to form them and how to perform them to have the desired outcome. I hope you get a chance to take down those little vampires that are the obstacle to achieving your perfect writing ritual. I would love to know the places you try out as you search for your designated writing spot. Mine is my couch so I can’t offer much help in that department but finding that spot is really worth the effort. It will hopefully stimulate productivity and create a great first step in producing great content.


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