There’s a difference between routines and rituals, but the two are often tied together. Routines are events that we act out on a regular basis. Rituals are the little actions that we do as part of those routines.
My partner’s pre-bedtime routine includes stacking the dishwasher and locking up the house. But before he crawls into bed, he walks around checking that every window and door is locked. That’s his nightly ritual, and he can’t sleep without it.
A lot of people have a specific ritual tied to their workday. Put away personal things, make coffee, check e-mail. Then they can get down to the business of working. Skip the routine, and you often find yourself off-balance, unable to buckle down. The ritual works as a warning to the brain; “work is coming, prepare yourself”.
I used my work ritual to make the transition to working from home with my business. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I make myself a cuppa, check e-mail (work only!) and then I’m ready to buckle down. It works amazingly well, and keeps me productive in an environment full of distractions.
I was reminded of the importance of ritual and routine on Thursday, when a health ritual I had neglected for 6 months caused me to go a bit haywire. I won’t go into details – it wasn’t pretty. But now the fun starts; re-establishing the ritual as part of my routine. Because once you stop, you can’t just pick up where you left off; you need to start from scratch.
It’s the same with writing. (Come on, you knew I was going to get there eventually!) My ritual every evening is to tidy the kitchen, make a cup of tea and grab a Tim Tam (if there are any in the house). Then I sit down in the big comfy chair in the dining room, pull my folder onto my lap and don’t get up for an hour. This little ritual is what keeps me writing every day, and it works.
Can I write without the ritual? To be honest, I don’t know. But does it matter? Think of the ritual not as a crutch, but as a preparation tool. The trick is to make it free of location and time, so you can use the ritual to get you in the writing mood anywhere, anytime. I’m sure I can manage a cup of tea and a bikkie without having to move the world to do it.
Do you have a writing ritual? A few little actions that you perform before you write, to help you get in the mood? Do you think rituals are helpful, or a hindrance to getting into a routine?