Routine: Developing A Writing Ritual

Hello Everyone!

Happy Spring. I hope all is well and that you are feeling the energy of the Earth returning. Despite the pandemic, It has been a creative and productive winter for me. I’ve been on the road, my truck loaded with tripods, cameras, packs, books, maps, luggage, as I drove around The United States working on a new photo/writing project. The trip was fantastic, but it reminded me of the importance of routine in my creative process.

First things first, if you want to get into a consistent practice with your writing, I’m offering two Devotion to Writing Workshops in April. These 6-week, generative writing workshops will take place through Zoom. Regardless of the genre you’re writing in, a DTW workshop can help you cultivate a deep and consistent practice. Start the Spring by committing to your creativity.  Learn more

Back to routines…

Travel inspires me. Every day brings new experiences, colors, sounds, smells and new

people with their stories. However, I find it hard to write while moving around.

This got me thinking about the important role routine plays in my writing practice.

Don’t get me wrong, an injection of variety can jolt us into new perspectives. However, creating doesn’t only come from new experiences, it also grows out of sinking into a spaciousness generated by consistent practice.


How do you establish a writing routine?


First, identify and carve out time during the day that works for your schedule. Think clearly about your responsibilities. Where can you carve out a chunk of time to write? Does morning or evening work best? When I was working on my first poetry collection, I wrote much of it during lunch breaks.

You don’t need to devote hours to writing each day. If all you have is fifteen minutes, this is enough. Don’t let the amount of time be an excuse for not writing. You can fill a page with prose or compose an entire poem in just fifteen minutes. The important thing is to write.

Try aligning your writing time with the time of day when you feel most energetic and creative. Each of us has a time of day when we feel most awake and creatively at our best. For me, this begins around 10 a.m. It runs until 2 p.m. After 2, I don’t have a single creative idea. If you can write during these dynamic times, great. And don’t worry if your schedule doesn’t permit this. Write when you can. 

Make writing time a sacred time


Keep everyone and everything from infringing upon it. Don’t schedule appointments, don’t take the kids to a friend’s house, don’t do laundry, or check email, or look at social media, or meet friends for coffee. Consecrate your writing time as sacred and off-limits. If you don’t, no one else is going to. None of us would dare take a day off work to run an errand, or doom scroll. Yet, we routinely sacrifice writing for various minor responsibilities. We need to value our writing, our creative time as essential to our lives.

Routines quickly become habits, and habits are hard to break. We depend on routines more than we may realize. We have routines for getting the kids to school on time, for commuting to work, and a dozen other things. As we begin to write daily, writing will become what we do.

Established routines attain the power of rituals


Rituals are a set of practices that deliver us to a proper mental, physical, and emotional attitude. Think of how rituals function in life’s rites of passage, for example, weddings, and funerals. The songs, prayers, readings cultivate our proper attention. Similarly, a ritual of writing prepares us to enter and embark upon our creative work in a good frame of mind.

Playwright W. Somerset Maugham acknowledged he wrote only when inspiration struck. “Fortunately,” he said, “it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

There is a deep and subtle truth here: when we show up to write, inspiration strikes. The opposite also is true: Nothing happens if we don’t show up.

I hope you are writing deeply and beautifully,

Justen Ahren

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