Writing is something I do nearly every single day. Without it, life seems empty, void of something valuable. So, whatever the weather outside, I am somewhere near a window (if I can’t be outdoors), my writing supplies close at hand.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I find everything about it totally enjoyable. From its earliest days slipping in quietly and cool behind summer’s dusty heat clear through to its last day dressed a bit too chilly for winter’s bitter cold, Autumn steals my heart and soul.
And in my zeal to enjoy and live each Autumn day to its fullest in my writing studio, over the years I have developed certain seasonal writing rituals. The fall season is a special time of reflection backward and vision forward over the landscape of all my writing projects. How about you?
Writing Rituals for Autumn: What?
Writing is my passion. It is nearly as vital to my life as the air that I breathe. To think about a life without writing in it makes me shudder. Creative flow for me, although not completely limited to this one pathway, is best summed up with these two words: I write…a lot…all the time. (Okay, it’s seven words!)
In discussing writing rituals, it may be helpful to explain first what they are not! They are not about the way I prepare for the act of writing itself. It’s not about how to write or what I wear when I write. And they have nothing to do with the music I listen to when I write or the intensity of the light I prefer. These writing rituals are a different kind of checklist, if you will.
I am referring to a deeper action layer in my writing process that benefits greatly from a seasonal inventory and re-evaluation.
- My overall writing goals
- Status of specific project goals in process
- A look at the effectiveness of daily writing practices
- Am I writing some fun things or is it all disciplined project work?
- What am I avoiding? (finishing that first draft, enlisting the help of an editor, contracting with a publisher)
Writing Rituals for Autumn: Want to Succeed?
These things and many more, I have discovered through experience, are worth taking a look at to determine any necessary course corrections. Skip this objective look inward, and I can find myself way off track further down the road. Much time and creativity are wasted in this way. As difficult as it may be, taking the time to stop and take a look around is some of the best time you can spend on yourself as a writer.
I listen to other writers quite a bit. Whether from clients or friends, the same comments surface with a great deal of regularity. When the topics of organization, goals, and vision for their writings come up, there are few that have these well in hand. Herein lies a problem.
It is pretty widely accepted that, no matter what field you choose, those with written goals are much more likely to achieve success than those without them. There is nothing magic about writing something down. I have worked with clients who wrote them and still didn’t succeed because they didn’t follow through. Having goals or a plan without implementing and completing that plan is still a recipe for failure.
I am the last person to give you a set of regulations t0 follow in order to be a successful writer! Nope, not at all. But I have learned a thing or two about how to help someone create and complete a writing project from scratch. And I’ve learned how to help them do it effectively with only minimal feelings of craziness on their part.
Writing Rituals for Autumn: Some preliminary insight.
I am sharing my own writing checklist with you here. It is not an exact science even for me. Knowing a few things at this point will help you understand my process and how to adapt it to your own situation.
At the beginning of each year, I sit down and create a plan or vision of where I want my writing to be at the end of that year. I also write down what I want it to look like two years out and five years out. I have a master list of projects I want to do. That list gets added to whenever a new idea comes to life in my thinking. Completed projects get marked off as well.
For each project I have in the works, there is a long-term written goal for its ultimate completion. And each project also contains short-term goals geared to making that long-term goal come to pass on time.
Sound difficult? It’s really not. A few minutes of thought and planning creates a simple working system that carries each project cleanly through the writing process. It’s a small price to pay for both success and sanity along the way!
Writing Rituals: The Autumn Checklist.
Here’s the checklist I use as autumn sneaks up on the calendar and the landscape. I live in the Missouri Ozarks. Fall colors slip timidly into view among the weary faded greens at summer’s end. Those growing pops of brilliant yellow, red, orange and purple lift my spirits, bringing fresh energy to all my writing. I look forward to these checkpoints in my plan.
- Close out the loose ends of summer projects.
- Tidy up/reorganize the writing space/studio.
- Begin a new journal for the new season.
- Decide on a new project to complete by the end of winter.
- Set a new word count goal for the daily writing practice.
- Take it outside–a writing road trip or day hike.
- Re-evaluate all writing targets–are you on track?
Writing Ritual #1: Close out the loose ends of summer projects.
This one plays out one of several different ways. Sometimes there is that project I have worked on all summer long. It’s just about finished. For some reason–usually distractions–it remains 98% finished as autumn leaves start to fill the yard. All it needs is a final touch-up, a bit of revision, a little proofing.
Take the time to identify that project or projects. Now is the time to put your final burst of energy to it and get the job finished. Do whatever you have to do to move that one to the next level in the writing cycle.
Sometimes it works out that as summer draws to a close, my project goals are also met in total. Maybe I got it completed and moved to its next position a week or two early. That’s always a feel-good feeling! Now is the time to verify that everything is truly completed. Then if the project hasn’t yet been advanced to its next spot, now is the time to make it happen.
Writing Ritual #2: Tidy up/reorganize the writing space
Some writing projects have a lot of notes and extras. Some have recordings or CDs that contain valuable information. There might be an old photo album or a collection of news clippings. All these components were necessary to get the writing down well. Now the writing is finished, but no one could tell because of all the stuff lying around.
I hate to admit it, but when I work on a large writing project, I exercise the “pilot” plan. I pile it here and pile it there. Any flat surface is fair game as long as it’s easy to reach. This is the perfect time to put all that clutter in its place. Return anything that needs to go back to someone else. Reclaim the work space!
Besides the ongoing battle over stuff, I find that as the seasons change, so do I. With autumn coming, I want to rearrange things. The fresh air coming through the open window is too delicious to not enjoy. I want a closer look at the woods beyond the lawn with the breeze softly flowing across my desktop.
Autumn is a season of open windows for as long as the temperatures allow it. The fresh air, the warm sun–I am so very happy to be living where there are four distinct seasons! This is by far my favorite!
Take this time to renegotiate your writing space. Change up what you don’t like or have grown tired of seeing. Take a few minutes to really look at your space. How can you make it more comfortable? Does it invite you into a creative place? Does it feed your soul? Is there some aspect you can change up or remove that will make you want to sit down and write?
Writing Ritual #3: Begin a new journal for the season.
Hi. My name is Jane and I’m a journal-er. Yes, I admit it freely. At any one time I have more than one journal in the works. It shocked me to realize that not everyone does that! But I do.
One of my favorite ongoing journals records my prayer times with the Lord and with what I learn in His Word. It has no beginning and no end. When one notebook is filled, it continues on into the next forever. I keep track of them by simply writing their beginning and ending dates on the front covers.
Yes, I keep them. And yes, I read back through them on a pretty regular basis. It’s great to see how your faith grows and how much your life increases from year to year. It’s one of my favorite things.
There is also my journal that holds my writing play times. This is where I write in character as part of a manuscript or story. I explore various takes on a book’s setting, theme, or character development. I might test out different scenes or plot twists. The sky’s the limit, but it all has to do with projects I have in the works.
And then, I write seasonal journals, too. These contain all my thoughts, feelings, and experiences pertaining to the time of year. This writing is very freeing. I let pour forth whatever thought hits the surface. And I follow it wherever it wants to take me.
This seasonal journal is one of my favorite writing practices. And my favorite season is autumn. For each of these I try to find a suitable journal of some kind with a cover that reflects the season.
If you don’t yet journal, this is the perfect time to start in!
Writing Ritual #4: Decide on a new project to complete by spring.
I like to keep several projects alive and working at the same time. That way, if inspiration becomes foggy on one, I can switch to another and keep creating. I do my best to have one long-term project and one short-term project in the works.
A short-term writing project for me means I can complete it within a three-month time frame. And a long-term project is usually doable in six months. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but generally works out pretty true to form. (Exceptions are blog posts and other web content, all of which are created in a much shorter period of time.)
To give you an example of what this might look like to me at this season in time, I have a long-term project already in the works that is scheduled to be finished by year’s end. (This is actually a six-month project that began in July of this year.)
I am also beginning a short-term eBook project that will also be completed by the end of the year. These two projects will easily run side by side. The eBook is actually expected to go quite quickly and should be able to finish up ahead of schedule.
Writing Ritual #5: Set new word count goals for daily writing.
Take this time to look at the volume of writing you are creating in the last three months. In the first place, have you actually set a daily goal for how many words to write? And if you have set a goal, are you accomplishing it? That’s the first thing to recognize.
Then if you are working with a daily goal and making it, take a look at whether or not it is challenging you. Is your goal so low that it’s a no brainer? Or do you have to work at it a bit and stretch yourself to get there every day? Remember that the stretch is good for you; it helps you grow and strengthen as a writer.
You don’t train to run a marathon by strolling casually around the block. And you don’t gain mastery of your writing skills by writing a couple paragraphs a day. Where are you in this…honestly? Take a look and make a decision.
Then set that goal if you’ve never had one before. And if you do have one, increase it. If you’re sitting at 500 words/day stretch it up to 750 words/day. Shoot for 1000. You’ll find it easier and easier to hit that next number when you push yourself.
Discover what your writing excuses are. Too tired? Too busy? Don’t like the structure? Blah blah blah. As Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud!” And do it right now! Change up your self-talk. It’s amazing to me, but we are our own worst enemy. Every one of us.
Writing Ritual #6: Take it outside–road trip or day hike.
As I said earlier, writing is my passion. And autumn is my favorite season. I cannot help but marry the two together. Yes, I have to take it outside. The air gets crisp. The blue sky is unlike any other season. The vault overhead becomes so deep you can see forever into the heavens.
Yes, it’s the time of year for a writing road trip. First I grab my favorite tools–for me, that’s an unlined sketch pad and my favorite pen–and jump into the car. Then I pick a wonderful spot several hours’ journey from home.
Once settled into my room there, I grab some snacks and venture out into the wild spaces. Hours at a time are spent there with the fresh air, usually a body of water, a fire pit, and a pointy stick with some sort of deliciousness speared onto it. I write fast and furious as inspiration spins my heart and soul faster than a whirligig on a windy day.
As darkness falls on me and the ashes cool in the fire ring, my sketch pad is filled with hot molten words of fiery inspiration. My heart is quieted and peaceful, my soul spent of its creative flow.
The same is true of a writer’s day hike; it just doesn’t last as long. But the sense of adventure is still there. In the writing studio my mind is preyed upon by creative thoughts and ideas. They flip on writer’s switch and pursue me as I write after them.
When I am out on a road trip or day hike, the ideas do not pursue me, but I them. I become the hunter, not the hunted. And the experience is often exhilarating and joyful. It’s time to let your inner writer come out and roar!
Writing Ritual #7: Re-evaluate your writing targets–are you on track?
Remember I said I start each year with written goals of various kinds? The target dates represented in those goals need attention. What good does it do to write goals and never check in on them to measure your progress?
This is the time to do that. As autumn creeps in and winter follows on its heels, are you in line to hit your project’s target dates? Kudos if you are. But if you are falling short, take a moment to understand why you’re not there. Adjustments made now can still keep your project in the doable range.
This is not about beating up on yourself. It’s about being realistic with that project. Is it proving to be more work than you had thought? Do you need to do more research? Many factors can slow or stop a project. Wisdom detects the issues and adjusts the targets accordingly. Peace is the result!
There you have it. That’s my writing checklist to take you into the fall season with your projects working and your sanity intact! I encourage you to run these writing rituals for yourself. Make the back half of your writing year stronger than the first half.
As usual, I hope this helps you write more, write better, write now. Please subscribe to my blog to stay current with all that’s going on around my writing studio. Check out my writing services page or drop me an email for my help with your writing project!
Thank you & God Bless!