Why Are Rituals So Important For Writers and Artists?

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by Pekoeblaze

A few months ago, I read a fascinating online article about “method writing”, which also mentioned some of the things that famous writers did to get into the mood for writing. So, I thought that I’d share a few of my own thoughts about this subject.

To be honest, “method writing” sounds like a silly fad which, from the descriptions in the article, actually seems to get in the way of actually writing – rather than enhancing the experience. It’s probably a good type of publicity stunt, I guess. However, many writers and other creative people have some kind of ritual that they use to get into the mood.

For example, when I’m making art (but not writing), I’ll often watch an episode or two of a TV show on DVD and/or a few Youtube videos in the background. Not only does this provide me with a time limit of sorts and helps me to keep up momentum, but it’s also a good background distraction that I can use when I need to take a short break and think about what to draw or paint next.

With writing, my rituals can sometimes be a little bit more elaborate – either listening to specific types of music, making extensive notes, playing specific computer games, vivid daydreaming and/or all sorts of other things.

But, whatever they are, rituals are an important part of writing or making art. But, why?

Unlike films and music – writing, drawing and painting are solitary activities. They are things that one person does alone and, as such, they tend to have a lot more individuality than most other artforms do. However, this also means that the writer or artist doesn’t have a team to rely on in order to get motivated or to get into the mood. There aren’t other actors to rehearse with and there aren’t other musicians to jam with.

And, yes, getting into the mood is a big part of creating anything. After all, the whole point of art and writing is to transfer the contents of your imagination onto paper, canvas and/or a computer screen. The more vivid, emotional and intense you can make your imagination – the better the results will be. Of course, you also need experience and technical skill too, but being in the right mood still counts for a lot.

There are actually several different types of rituals. There are ones that help you to immerse yourself in the thing that you’re creating, and there are rituals that help you to feel more “professional” or “serious”.

Although I’ve already talked about the former type of ritual, I should talk about the latter too. The thing to remember with these kinds of rituals is that you should only do them to compliment any motivation or ambitions that you already have. Merely wearing a fedora, wearing a beret, using a fancy pen or using a vintage typewriter won’t help you if the motivation isn’t already there.

However, some “professional” rituals can have a serious positive effect on your levels of creativity. The most simple one is, of course, to set yourself deadlines or to stick to a regular routine. If you push yourself to create things to a regular schedule, then this will teach you a lot about how to keep going when you’re feeling uninspired. It’ll also mean that you’ll amass a large body of work (even if most of it is just practice work) in a relatively short amount of time too.

Whilst I’m on the subject of things people do to get into the mood for writing and/or making art, I should probably also clear up a few popular misconceptions about drugs (legal or otherwise) and creativity.

My view on the subject is that, if you’re going to take anything when you’re writing or making art, then you should limit yourself to mild stimulants that don’t interfere with your thought processes. In other words, don’t take anything stronger than caffeine, sugar and/or (if you smoke, vape etc..) nicotine too.

In my experience, alcohol is a fairly unreliable source of creative inspiration. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve only ever experienced this occasional unpredictable benefit after one or two drinks.

After more heavy drinking, I’ve never produced any good works of art or fiction. So, getting hammered probably won’t have a positive effect on any art or writing that you make directly afterwards. Although drinking and creativity (writing especially) are often linked in the popular imagination, it’s probably best to save the booze for appropriate social situations.

As for other substances, all I will say on the matter is that, whilst they have been useful to an extremely small number of creative people, they’re probably much more likely to distract you than to motivate or inspire you.

In other words, if you take anything that means that you’re too busy laughing uncontrollably, almost falling asleep, seeing things and/or feeling an unexplainable sense of dread, then you’re probably not really going to be motivated to actually write or make art. So, don’t get high before you write or make art.

So, yes, rituals are an important part of creativity. However, they should always be things that actually help you to create things, rather than an excuse to show off or to get wasted.

 

 

Guest post contributed by Pekoeblaze. Pekoeblaze is an artist and writer, who has produced many drawings and online comics.


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17 thoughts on “Why Are Rituals So Important For Writers and Artists?”

  1. I agree with the drugs part. A lot of new writers, and budding writers are often negatively influenced into taking drugs to enhance their creativity. Their friends, or their writer friends or just people who use drugs to write will tell them that drugs will enhance their writing to a more abstract level because they will not feel many earthly emotions in a trip. And i have sadly seen these new writers getting addicted to certain drugs, especially marijuana for a long time before they realise that they have to focus in order to bring out that side of themselves. So, while marijuana does maybe let them know their potential, it ruins their chances of attaining it as soon as they could have.

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    1. True – whilst some of these things might allow more “creative” ways of thinking, this benefit is often either mostly or completely wasted by the fact that they also simultaneously reduce the levels of focus, motivation, enthusiasm etc.. needed to actually turn those thoughts into something genuinely interesting.

      But, yeah, it really isn’t pointed out often enough that the few famous writers, musicians, artists etc… who still manage to make great stuff despite taking large amounts of drugs are very much the exception rather than the rule.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. True. Artists taking such copious amounts of drugs are an exception. This is because too many people focus on their stories while failing to mention the people who got wasted away by it.
        So it’s also an issue of exposure and what goes forward from people’s mouths.

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    1. Cool 🙂 Glad to hear that you’ve found something that works for you 🙂 The time-based part of your writing ritual is especially interesting, since my own ritual for making art is pretty much the opposite of this – if a painting takes me more than 30-90 minutes to make, then I’ll usually start thinking that something has gone wrong LOL!!!!

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  2. I’ve read the stuff, lots of it on rituals, mantras, candle, music etc. They just seem to get in the way. I find I work better when I imitate Jane Austen who used to write in the parlor of a busy household, when she had the time and simply cover what she was doing when someone came in to the room. Fooling myself by saying I’m just jotting down a few thoughts and committing myself to doing that when it fits in is my current method. I do find streaming Pandora stations that vary with what I’m trying to capture via earphones on my laptop as I tylecan be helpful for longer sessions.

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    1. I don’t know, I guess that some of this is probably because of the whole introvert/extrovert thing. I mean, the idea of trying to write or draw something in a fragmentary way whilst constantly at risk of social interruptions really wouldn’t work for me but, as you said, it certainly worked for Jane Austen.
      Your “jotting down a few thoughts” approach is really cool though, since I guess that it’s probably a good way to get rid of the sense of ultra-high expectations (that can paradoxically be a common cause of writer’s block).

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  3. I also like to leave the TV. on while I draw (I haven’t in a while, I’ve been so busy writing), it’s amazing really, I get so focused and it just works. I can have a beautiful completed work in about an hour. But it has to be something that holds my interest…
    I’m exactly the opposite when I write, music, TV. just distracts me..
    Funny how that works hehe

    Meno

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    1. Although I’m more of an artist than a writer these days, I’ve certainly experienced something like this (although watching TV, DVDs etc.. sort of both does and doesn’t work when I’m making comics).
      I think that the reason why TV shows can be inspirational when making art, but a distraction whilst writing, is because making art doesn’t actually involve using any words.
      Whereas, when writing, the dialogue from TV shows etc.. can actually get in the way of thinking of what to write next (surprisingly though, I’ve never had this problem with lyrics in music though). Or, at least this is how it works for me.

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  4. Although I agree with you about using “substances” to help with motivation, there are famous writers who have used the ones you suggest be snatched away. Walt Disney (opium) and Hemmingway (liquor) are the first two that come to mind. Another two are Mark Twain (hemp) and Poe (another opium user).

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  5. When I get in the mood to write/draw, I do the typical things (such as listen to music/TV/YouTube, mild cleaning, and such), but I will be the first to admit, that whevener I do something creative, I usually have a small glass of whiskey by my side. I try not to drink too much, and I usually get good results, plus I don’t feel so stressed. Another favorite thing to do (and this sounds weird), but I also like to watch/listen to reviews on shows, anime, movies, and the like. I also turn to director’s/animator’s commentaries for animated movies. As long as I’m not working ion silence or in a state of stress, I can work almost anywhere.

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