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Ritualized Writing

talor_a profile image Talor Anderson ・3 min read

Hi! This is my first post on dev.to. I want to share the system that helped me break through from 'I can never write well enough to have a blog', to having tons of ideas for posts that I can't wait to write up. I hope it will help anyone else like me who wants to start writing but just doesn't have the ideas flowing.


Recently, I've been thinking a lot about the article "Ritualized Conversation" by Pamela j. Hobart, which I read a bit ago. What it says is that planned encounters with familiar settings can help us create deep encounters with those around us. Think board game nights with friends or meeting with a therapist..

It got me thinking about the conversations I have, and what I realized is that it takes actual work to have these sorts of conversations. Today, we don't spend as much time face-to-face with others as past generations have because of technology's tendency to abstract those sorts of interactions away behind shiny UI's and endless newsfeeds. But my point isn't to rant about the woes of technology. The article just says we should take the time to create quality interactions by forming our own rituals to meet with others.

Then I realized I'd been creating my own sort of ritual, but with my writing. This all started after picking up a copy of The Artist's Way Journal (I think it was recommended by Tim Ferriss, but I can't find where I originally heard about it). This journal outlines a system of writing where you sit down in the morning and write three full longhand pages of whatever's on your mind. For me, it's often short todos for the day or ranting about how I need more sleep, usually scrawled almost unintelligibly through tired eyes. But sometimes, a sort of magic happens. You'll catch on to a thought - maybe something you read or talked about the day before - and you'll write. And write and write and write. And suddenly you'll have pages of thoughts on a topic you'd never even really considered before. I think part of the magic is that your mind has lowered its filter as part of having to do the pages first thing in the morning. But another part is that the writing is a safe space, where you can just follow your thoughts wherever they may lead. This is what I'd call ritualized writing - training your brain to sit down and put your thoughts onto paper without worrying about what comes out or how good it is.

I'd strongly recommend anyone who's interested in starting blogging, developing their writing, or even just trying to get more organized to try this system. Before this, I'd tried tons of different systems. I meticulously kept a bullet journal, I wrote daily entries in Notion, wrote my thoughts into Google Keep, but nothing seemed to feel right.

Those systems might have been highly organized, efficient, and well-known but they lacked the sort of authenticity that putting your pen to paper gives.

Now, I keep those things that are inherently highly structured (my schedules, work tasks, etc.) all online for convenience (I live in google calendar and spark), and stick to pen and paper for my very unstructured thoughts.

This post was born out of one particularly productive morning writing session, then revised and posted here. I'm going to use this to continue writing, so hopefully you'll be hearing more from me soon! If this helps you or you've got another writing system that you like, leave it in the comments.

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