I write when I am inspired, and I see to it that I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.
~Peter De Vries
The brain and the body are both part of the same biological being, so the interaction between them flows both ways. If the brain interprets some signals, the body is trained to react in certain ways. For e.g., every time the brain senses a threat, the same physiological reactions emerge – increased heart rate, tensing of muscles, eyes on the source of threat etc. Similarly, certain physiological activities can send signals to the brain to switch to a certain mindset. This topic is being examined in nonverbal communications and how certain poses affect the mindset of people (as talked about in this TED talk).
Creativity is also a mindset. People have to be in a creative frame of mind to do their best work, and there are certain physical states that are associated with being creative. For e.g. creativity doesn’t come too easily when the body is experiencing tension or pain. By the same token, the mental state of creativity can be consciously brought about by physical actions. This is what is called as a creativity ritual.
Rituals are used by athletes to perform at their peak. Online resources on running vouch for it. I used to follow a ritual to form my running habit – Put on running gear, tie up shoelaces, and step outside the door. Just repeating this set of actions (preferably at the same time everyday) was enough to form my running habit. Now, I write everyday; it is the time of the day I am at my creative peak. Before I started writing regularly, one of the things I was afraid of was, ‘If I run out of the few good ideas I had, what will I continue to write about?’ As I went through various habit forming exercises (Zenhabits is an awesome resource for it) I realized that creativity can be made into a habit too. One of the ways to do it was through a creativity ritual. It is not as if I can’t write without the ritual, but, having a ritual takes out a lot of the waiting and decision making time involved.
As I sat down to write today, I was completely blank. But, I began any way. Following is my ritual that helps me write every single day, after I get home from my day job.
Wash my hands and face, and switch on my laptop.
Set some water to boil and put a teabag in a cup.
While the water boils, put a few nuts (cashew, almond, walnut) on the saucer.
Pour boiling water into the cup and let the tea brew for a couple of minutes.
Bring the cup and saucer and set it on my table, beside the laptop.
Open up a writing software (I use Google docs in full screen mode).
Start writing while enjoying my snack and tea.
I have been doing it for more than 2 months now. When I started, it took a little getting used to – what beverage, what snack, what to write? As the pattern fell into place through repetition, most of the aspects of the ritual demanded minimal creativity, which could then be channeled into my writing. The topic I choose to write about can be anything – something I read on a blog or in a book, some video I saw on YouTube or even something completely random (like this post; this is the first sentence I wrote – Whenever I used to read a novel (and I read a lot), there would always be a feeling inside of me that I too can write great novels). This ritual prepares my mind, through actions, to be in the creative state for writing. Also, the time for the ritual doesn’t have to be exactly the same everyday, but lesser the variation, easier it is to form a habit out of it. If you are having a difficult time to do something creative, I challenge you to build a ritual around it. Make it something you enjoy. It is a much better way to be creative rather than sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.