Challenge Journal 1: Rituals

Writing is something that can be difficult for me to just turn on and off like a switch. As a student I am inundated with requirements of drafts and rubrics and deadlines so sometimes I don’t have a choice. This, however, leads to vicious cycles of procrastination, so much so that I now prefer to work under a very tight deadline. The pressure fuels me. But to arbitrarily sit myself down at 4pm on a Tuesday to write a paper that’s due in a week, is to write uninspired. If you want to see what inspired writing looks like, you should see the notepad app on my phone. It’s a sacred space full of essay fragments, rants, lyrics, concepts, lists, quotes, recipes. In moments where I have an idea or I feel inspired it’s as if that switch just goes on for me and I NEED to put my thoughts into words. Luckily my phone never leaves my side.   

I don’t have a ritual for writing. The most consistent thing about my writing is that it’s usually done last minute if I’m up against a deadline but this is more of a way of life than a ritual. Or, it’s a ritual I need to stop. I guess when I write in the notepad app on my phone the big difference is that I know that I’m only writing for my eyes. There’s no chance anyone is ever going to see what I write in there in its raw form. But when I’m writing for real, as soon the pen metaphorically hits the paper (I never handwrite, hence metaphorically) in my mind it’s as if its already in its final form. A ritual that I could establish for this semester could be to start any writing process with a free-write. Maybe I will feel more inspired if I can get over the mental hurdle of feeling like it has to be close to perfect and instead write down literally anything that comes to mind. I can treat each new doc that I create as a new note on my phone. 

One thought to “Challenge Journal 1: Rituals”

  1. Hi Elana!

    First off, I want to say that I identify with SO MUCH of what you’ve expressed here. I also take notes in my Notes app on my phone, writing down my random thoughts in a format free of expectations and therefore stress or pressure, in the distant hope that they’ll someday turn into something more coherent. I also make voice recordings on my phone when I’m walking and have thoughts I want to capture–I don’t quite have the hand-eye coordination to walk and type on that tiny screen at the same time! Further, I, too, am more productive under the pressure of a deadline. I’ll often go to bed early and get up early and do things in the morning in order to manufacture a time limit for myself, which somehow works to “fuel me,” as you mention deadlines do you for. I think it’s really cool that though writing is so personal, we have so much of the same experience!

    One of the most interesting points you make in your post is your observation that for you “inspired” writing is that which you do informally, in your notepad app, and that that notepad writing is “only for [your] own eyes.” Thus, it seems relatively easy to employ the transitive property (yay math) and compute that for you, “inspired” writing = writing only for your eyes. You seem to imply that once you have a known audience who will eventually read your work–such as for a specific assignment–you tend to lose that inspiration and become uninspired. This is just my interpretation of your explanation above… does that make sense/seem right to you?

    What I find interesting about that is that all writing has an audience, right? Even when you right random thoughts down into your notepad app, isn’t there some expectation that someday, some version of that content will be read by someone other that you? I think you’re right that the difference in inspiration levels you find in different situations is mostly a “mental hurdle,” and changing the way you think about writing you’re already doing–conceptualizing the outpouring of “freely-written” thoughts you already put into your notepad app as something more intentional, ritualistic, and structured–could be super helpful! I think you should also try to see if you can re-conceptualize the way you think about audience. Since there is, in a way, always a future audience present whenever we sit down to write something, I wonder if you can find a way to move that concept of audience more towards what it feels like to write only for yourself. Is there a way for you to trick your mind into equating the stifling, uninspiring audience implied from assignments with yourself, making them more personal? Or a way to find a reason why you are writing each piece for you, not only for another outside audience? What do you think? How does your conception of audience affect the level of inspiration you feel when you sit down to write? What ways do you think you could do to push the “uninspired” idea of audience towards the “inspired” one? I’m really curious!

    Thanks so much for sharing so much that I relate to in this post, and let me know your thoughts on audience!


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