I have always loved the escape of books. All my friends are words. Most of my crushes are entirely fictional, except for you.
A writing ritual then, for me, is somewhat different from most. Daily writing isn’t a thing I do for an end goal, but a thing I do to survive. Almost everything I’ve ever written lives solely on my computer, or even worse: entirely in my mind, never to be read by anyone else.
I’ve still got my old original blueberry iMac in the basement cause there’s the start of a book on there that, while it will never get finished, was some good shit. Maybe. (Sexy Vampires about 25 years before Twilight almost ruined the genre, since you asked.)
I’m not going to claim I sit down and write daily in the conventional sense, I don’t. I do spend a lot of time rewriting and editing reality while I sit in the bath and occasionally, will land on a line or a phrase that gets recorded for future use. The notes section on my iPhone is full of gems.
Is that even writing?
What Counts as a Writing Ritual
When you think about a writing ritual, what comes to mind? If you’re me, you think of a nice, sexy hardcover of 500+ pages, guaranteed to hurt your nose when you fall asleep reading. I spent a large part of my career in publishing and can remember wandering through the warehouse, looking at the stacks of books around me, wanting to know them all. While reinforcing in my own mind that the only acceptable goal is book or bust.
Have you written a book? I sure haven’t. Does that mean we’ve never written anything? Of course not.
Yet when people come to me to talk about creating a writing plan, it is almost always with the goal of Book.
How Much of Your Daily Reading Is a Book?
Today, I read the instructions to make macrame angels, captions on Instagram, infographics on IG, a few messages on IG, and a text.
(Literally one. I am pretty much impossible to connect with digitally and get about seven texts on a busy day and find that pretty chaotic.)
If that all counts as reading, surely then it also counts as writing, yes?
Once you allow yourself to break out of the idea that a writing ritual must be a long-form fiction book, I think you’ll find that you already have a daily writing practice.
If you add up the word count of your average daily texts alone, you’ll probably be at hundreds or thousands of words (I’m at 32 words sent over two texts and honestly that feels like a lot).
You Write All Day Long
There’s my first suggestion: expand your view of what counts as reading and writing. Validate yourself for the fact that you are already reading and writing—dare I say communicating—all day long.
Once you add in email and Farcebook—two things I take great pains to avoid—you’re probably pumping out a solid 1,000+ usable words a day.
And there, gentle readers, is the reason why I don’t do most of those things—I would rather focus my thousand words a day into one semi-coherent piece that I will share with nobody. But I digress…right into my next point (can you digress into something? Watch me).
I’m a Writer; Now What?
Great, now that you’ve accepted that you are already a writer with daily practice, how do you focus that into something productive?
How I do it is: no Farcebook, very limited texts, absolutely no notifications (my phone is in DND for 23 hours and 59 minutes a day) and I still spend most of my screen time scrolling IG to see if you’ve watched my stories yet.
So, even if you live like some weird digital hermit and you still find that you aren’t hitting your writing goals, how can you focus your daily writing practice?
Focus Your Daily Writing Practice
First thing: data. Sexy, sexy data.* I’m not talking about doing a word count of every text you’ve sent, although that might be fun, but at the end of the day take stock.
Look through your texts and messages and social and email and remind yourself: I wrote today, therefore I am a writer. That’s good to know.
Secondly, moderate your own expectations. I do not expect of myself that everything I write is a rare and precious gem that deserves to be a sexy, sexy hardcover.
Most of it does not even warrant reading BY ME, let alone an audience.
Even as I write this sentence, I can see at the bottom of the document a paragraph that I am not going to use for this piece. It’s cute and fun, but it got shortened into a brief aside to allow for better flow and focus. I like it though, and so I’m keeping it in a doc where I dump all my little blurbs that may, or may not, get used elsewhere.
Learn to be your own vicious editorial team.
What Is Your Purpose?
Then, let’s think about purpose. As I discussed above, most of my reading these days is short form via social media. Once I realized that that was also where most of my daily writing goes, I started to tweak what and how I share online.
I realized that instead of a garbage dump for my unfiltered thoughts, I could use IG stories to create little short reads where I put a few sentences over an image, and have five to six slides in a row to make my point.
I like that they disappear, so I don’t overthink due to permanence on my grid, and instead compose them around an idea or phrase that I am trying to work out of my head.
It also generates all sorts of data—I can see who moved forward, who exited, who went back to read more. It’s given me a sense of how much people actually read on social media, and how I can adapt my delivery methods for maximum uptake.
Next time you click through my stories and read my description of a dream about flying space turtles, know that I am also analyzing my own writing and looking at all the back-end metrics to judge the engagement around my content so I can improve.
I do nothing ‘casually’, it’s exhausting.
Take Some Risk and Experiment with Your Daily Writing
I like that this strategy gives me a way to share my writing and allows others to see it without putting too much pressure on the outcome.
The transient nature of stories means that only a fraction of my followers will see them, most will click through without reading, and usually, one or two people will reply.
For me, the worst bit isn’t the writing, it’s the letting people see the writing bit that sends me around the bend.
Forcing myself to take the time to create these little storyboards is a structured act of creation that I can scale for bigger pieces. It also gives you all sorts of super honest feedback that most people would be hesitant to give directly.
If my purpose is to connect and communicate, I want to know when it isn’t landing, so I can adjust.
What’s Your Writing Ritual?
When I work with people who want to write longer-form pieces, usually my first step is to remove the all-or-nothing focus that everything must be Book or even Blog.
Instead, I focus on crafting the ritual of Writing, in all its various forms. In our brains, it is all the same. Our brains already know we are writers.
It is time we start to recognize that in ourselves and our daily rituals, and from there, learn to harness that creative power to reach our writing goals.
What’s your writing ritual? Where do your daily words go? Is your daily writing process moving you closer to your writing goals?
* I once dated a scientist who sent me a text that said “you are beautiful, love, but not nearly as much as this sexy, sexy data” which is one of the most flattering rejections I’ve ever received.