Lots of writers have rituals they apply to their creative process. Legend has it Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables in the nude, having instructed his servants to hide his clothes so he wouldn’t be tempted to leave the house. Truman Capote wrote lying down and Ernest Hemingway stood to pen his work.

I don’t have any rituals that relate to writing process itself. I can write just about anywhere, on anything, in any position, although I must confess I haven’t tried to write on a roller coaster or while standing on my head, so there’s that. In fact, I used to think I didn’t have any rituals at all when it came to my creative process, but this past weekend, when I wrapped up the edits for my September release, I discovered I do indeed do a certain thing every time I hit this stage of the process.

On the shelf in my office is this box:


Inside is a journal for almost every book and short story I’ve written.

IMG_2889These journals are my spare brain during the writing process. I carry one with me most of the time while I’m writing the first draft of the book and jot down ideas, character names, random to-do’s that I need to remember to go back and check before I hand in the first draft of the manuscript. If I don’t happen to have the journal with me when I have a thought, I jot the idea down on whatever I can find and then stick in the journal later, which results in many of the pages looking like this:


When I get my edits back from my editor, I use the journal again to keep track of changes I need to make to the story after I go through the initial line edits. The day I turn the edited version in, the journal goes in the box with all the ones that have gone before. The book isn’t quite done yet; there’s still one more step – proof reading, but there won’t be anymore changes to the story at this point, so the work of the spare brain journal is done.


It always amazes me that the messy pages of my spare brain wind up with something like this as a final product, but then again I have lots of help along the way:

Reasonable Doubt 300 DPI

Anyone else have a particular ritual before, during, or after writing?



  1. The post-it about the dog made me laugh. I have no writing rituals as I am just now learning to write in a way that another person might want to read. I do have my tax prep rituals- I have a set way I like to see the different programs on my screen which I open up in the same order each time and I prefer standing up while I work. I also have had the same mechanical pencil since I became a CPA in 2002.


  2. I need music that relates to the scene. If I’m writing action, I want to listen to Pink, or Evanescence. If I’m writing a romantic scene, I want something soft and ambient. An emotionally gut-wrenching scene needs chant. I can write on either my computer or paper, but I seem to prefer yellow legal pads if it’s paper, then I’ll transfer my notes to a ‘story bible’. Each book so far has it’s own Pinterest storyboard too.


  3. I do something I call a “story map.” It’s like visual outline (that looks more like a map) for how the story will build. It might as well be encrypted because no one else would likely ever be able to make sense of it. I usually do this on two 11 x 17 sheets of paper, taped together and then when I’m done I fold them up like a road map. Oh, and I keep a little journal of running notes just like you 🙂


  4. I have a “spare brain” file (which sometimes is a notebook). I make an outline, which often goes sideways once I start writing. When I write, I have a HUGE cup of coffee beside me, my feet up, and complete silence. My ritual is complete! 🙂


  5. I write early in the morning (5:30am) before I go to work. So I too have a pot of coffee near by. I used to use wire bound notebooks to keep notes in, now I use the Notes app on my IPad and iPhone. Helps me stay a little more organized.


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