What is your daily creative ritual?

Ta da! This is an announcement that I have finally finished Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, compiled and edited by Mason Currey. My sometimes-writing partner Patricia owned it first, and intrigued, I ordered it from a bookstore called Perfect Books, using a gift card given to me by another friend. (So, a perfect combination of recommendation, a walk on a clear day to a bookstore, and a gift).

I read Daily Rituals slowly, like a little treat at night before I turned off the light, or in the afternoon during a break in my own daily work.

Readers peek into the creative working lives of 161 artists of all kinds, and the “daily rituals to get done the work they love to do.”

I can report that Truman Capote worked for four hours a day, writing mostly while lying on his bed, and revised his work in the evenings. My beloved Alice Munro wrote, at the beginning at least, during her children’s nap times, and then later when they were in school. Thomas Mann was always in his study by 9:00am, where he wrote undisturbed until noon. (It amazed me then and it amazes me now that I once worked for Margaret who worked for Elisabeth, the daughter of Thomas Mann. I was appropriately awed by and deeply tongue-tied around Elisabeth and if memory serves me correctly was once gently scolded by her during my summer job at the International Ocean Institute in Halifax, which Elisabeth Borgese founded, along with the other chapters around the world. We said “in Malta” a lot in the office. Isn’t that cool?).

This collection of working patterns by Mann and the others were all unique, except for one thing they had in common, which is that they existed. There was a pattern. These highly creative and accomplished writers, artists, musicians and super-smart math people, all discovered how to work well within the possibilities and limitations of the space and the time they had.

And then, they hit repeat.

Inspired, I wondered how my own daily ritual could be fine-tuned for better, deeper work?

What is working and what could be tweaked with whatever it is that you are involved in making, or dream of creating? What sonata, play, novel, or cosmic challenge could you solve, if you sat down in the same place at the same time for most (some?) days each week?

It helps to name your current patterns now. If I imagine someone writing about my own rituals for Daily Rituals: How Writers Work who Sometimes get Lucky Even Though They are not all That Disciplined, they would include:

  • Each morning, after making a big mess on one side of her kitchen, she pivots and sits down at the opposite counter, which is her desk, by 9 or shortly after. If privacy is required, she turns on the kitchen bathroom fan (for this kitchen has a bathroom), that makes it sound like she’s working near the engine of a jet.
  • Later, she wanders the neighbourhood with her aged dog, where mental logjams can break and writing solutions gush out and she rushes home as fast as her dog can still move, before she forgets them.

Those aren’t the whole story of course.

Our creative rituals change with our space and our lives, and sometimes our projects. If I am working on My Own Stuff — as I call it — I have found in this particular house that going upstairs to our bedroom and writing while stretched out on our bed (Capote style!) works for me. Usually — ritually — I schedule this writing time ahead, noting it in my calendar as an appointment. My phone? Tantalizingly out of reach, volume off. Wifi on my laptop is turned off, if I have found the strength. My feathers are, ideally, unruffled. Please don’t yell up and ask me things. I need to be at an emotional medium-level blah, with a big glass of water beside me on my nightstand, that I might spill. Then, read. Write. Revise. Repeat. Recover.

If someone was going to write about your daily ritual, how would they describe it now? Or better, how would you want them to describe it?



7 thoughts on “What is your daily creative ritual?”

  1. That book was gifted to me by my also creative daughter, Jenna. And like you, I read it in snatches – but you beat me to the finish! Another post to love here, friend. “She pivots and sits down at the opposite counter …” I see you there, and again, am glad you are. xo

  2. I note the due date, and start so that the rough draft is done a week before and I write a page and a half a day. I don’t revise until the rough draft is done. I get good grades so it’s obviously working!

  3. I love having a daily schedule/routine (even in retirement). I realize that I do myself a disservice when I compromise my creative time to make myself available to others for their needs. I recognize that the issue is mine and mine alone. I need to become better at protecting “my creative time”. My creative time takes place sitting on a stack of cushions on the loveseat in our snug [WARNING: unless you have staff, avoid buying a sofa/love seat with down seat cushions–they need to be fluffed every time you get up]. BTW, hiring you was one of the best decisions I made during my career!

    1. I wish I had staff to fluff my cushions. I still wear the beautiful pewter earrings you bought me when we pulled up stakes and moved to Vancouver (early! before my job was over!!)

  4. I am so happy to report a writing ritual, ever since winning an Inscribe Editor’s Choice award in early October of 2021. That award acted like rocket fuel and propelled me into taking my love of writing seriously and making it a priority. What has worked wonderfully for me since then, is moving my desk into my bedroom and having everything writing-related at close hand. Each morning I go straight to the desk before doing anything else and for an hour and a half, I luxuriate in such activities as writing practice as per Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones directs, working on a current story in progress, and sometimes writing in my writing journal. I light a candle, make a cup of herbal tea with hot water I’ve taken up in a thermos the night before, and put on a daily Spotify playlist and set my timer for 90 minutes. The time zooms by. I’ve kept this up even through a busy couple of holiday seasons with a small pie business, and am nearing completion of a story I’ve wanted to write for over a year. I’m going to enter it into a personal essay contest that has a deadline of March 28, and feel such a gratifying sense of accomplishment at last, after many years of messing around and not really doing my best. That’s it–I finally feel as though I’m doing my best and getting better at something I deeply love.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *