Guest Author Roshani Chokshi: Finding the Right Writing Rituals for You
I’m always tickled when I'm asked about writing rituals. Mostly because it sounds like a delightfully witchy thing to do. Like, here I am gathering the various entrails of animals for future auguries, and plucking obscure plants with moon-pale roots only when the night is at its darkest. I wish! Then I would finally have a purpose for all the discounted cauldrons I just bought on Witch eBay. . .
But in all seriousness, the thing about rituals is that they are private. Each ritual is tailored to an act/variations of that act. Every book I finish only teaches me how to write that book. It took me a while to learn to appreciate that. I used to get so frustrated because what would work to allow me to finish one book only made another WIP (work-in-progress) seize up like a cramped muscle.
This is the first year that I am writing two completely different projects essentially at the same time, and the experience has taught me a lot about how rituals work for me. Again, what I'm writing here is only what works for me. It's not a commentary on how anybody should write books. Do what works for you. If anybody tells you "this is how to write" you should probably tell them that there is a giant man-eating crocodile behind them that they should RUN FOR THEIR LIIIIIIIIIFE.
Anyway, here are the top three things that work for me:
1. I invest in a lot of candles. Like, a lot of candles.
If you have read my books before you know that they are very sensory. I like images, textures, atmosphere. To help get me in the mindset to bring that to both of my different projects I have a special candle for each book. Surprisingly, tomato is probably my favorite candle scent. I think it's because it smells like steeped sunshine and overturned earth. It also kind of signals to my brain which world we are supposed to be in at any given time.
2. I have to be very careful about what time I start writing.
My first impulse when I wake up in the morning is to immediately check my phone. This, for me, instantly kills my creativity. Looking at social media in the morning only serves to remind me that this piece of my soul that I'm putting on paper will be consumed by the public. It makes me feel scared to write, and that is not the best headspace. Obviously, I cannot always control what time of day I can write. But the very least I can do is give my brain some semblance of distance. That means putting my phone on airplane mode, and listening to music for about 15 to 30 minutes and sketching out some scenes or rereading the last stuff that I wrote before I actually start writing.
Not too long ago I was diagnosed with trigger finger, which causes some really painful inflammation in both my hands. It was a game changer for me because it changed how I approach writing in general. I had to come up with new ways to draft without sacrificing my hands. As I'm writing this post, I'm not actually writing. I'm dictating. It feels super weird because how you write is not necessarily how you speak. But this has also made me less afraid when it comes to writing. Writing a draft is not an exercise in permanence. A draft is an exercise in change. A draft is a foundation, but you can still strip for parts. Letting myself ramble and dictate before I commit a scene to page allows me to be more flexible, and less critical of myself.
Those are my rituals. I think of them like talismans, charms meant to summon the good and push away the bad. I don't know if these particular talismans have a very long shelf life, but for now they work. And that is enough for me. I hope you find the right charms and amulets in your own journey. I will be very jealous of you if that involves using an actual cauldron or plucking strange herbs by the light of stars.