A few months ago, I read a fascinating online article about “method writing”, which also mentioned some of the things that famous writers did to get into the mood for writing. So, I thought that I’d share a few of my own thoughts about this subject.
To be honest, “method writing” sounds like a silly fad which, from the descriptions in the article, actually seems to get in the way of actually writing – rather than enhancing the experience. It’s probably a good type of publicity stunt, I guess. However, many writers and other creative people have some kind of ritual that they use to get into the mood.
For example, when I’m making art (but not writing), I’ll often watch an episode or two of a TV show on DVD and/or a few Youtube videos in the background. Not only does this provide me with a time limit of sorts and helps me to keep up momentum, but it’s also a good background distraction that I can use when I need to take a short break and think about what to draw or paint next.
With writing, my rituals can sometimes be a little bit more elaborate – either listening to specific types of music, making extensive notes, playing specific computer games, vivid daydreaming and/or all sorts of other things.
But, whatever they are, rituals are an important part of writing or making art. But, why?
Unlike films and music – writing, drawing and painting are solitary activities 🙂 They are things that one person does alone and, as such, they tend to have a lot more individuality than most other artforms do. However, this also means that the writer or artist doesn’t have a team to rely on in order to get motivated or to get into the mood. There aren’t other actors to rehearse with and there aren’t other musicians to jam with.
And, yes, getting into the mood is a big part of creating anything. After all, the whole point of art and writing is to transfer the contents of your imagination onto paper, canvas and/or a computer screen. The more vivid, emotional and intense you can make your imagination – the better the results will be. Of course, you also need experience and technical skill too, but being in the right mood still counts for a lot.
There are actually several different types of rituals. There are ones that help you to immerse yourself in the thing that you’re creating, and there are rituals that help you to feel more “professional” or “serious”.
Although I’ve already talked about the former type of ritual, I should talk about the latter too. The thing to remember with these kinds of rituals is that you should only do them to compliment any motivation or ambitions that you already have. Merely wearing a fedora, wearing a beret, using a fancy pen or using a vintage typewriter won’t help you if the motivation isn’t already there.
However, some “professional” rituals can have a serious positive effect on your levels of creativity. The most simple one is, of course, to set yourself deadlines or to stick to a regular routine. If you push yourself to create things to a regular schedule, then this will teach you a lot about how to keep going when you’re feeling uninspired. It’ll also mean that you’ll amass a large body of work (even if most of it is just practice work) in a relatively short amount of time too.
Whilst I’m on the subject of things people do to get into the mood for writing and/or making art, I should probably also clear up a few popular misconceptions about drugs (legal or otherwise) and creativity.
My view on the subject is that, if you’re going to take anything when you’re writing or making art, then you should limit yourself to mild stimulants that don’t interfere with your thought processes. In other words, don’t take anything stronger than caffiene, sugar and/or (if you smoke, vape etc..) nicotine too.
In my experience, alcohol is a fairly unreliable source of creative inspiration. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve only ever experienced this occasional unpredictable benefit after one or two drinks.
After more heavy drinking, I’ve never produced any good works of art or fiction. So, getting hammered probably won’t have a positive effect on any art or writing that you make directly afterwards. Although drinking and creativity (writing especially) are often linked in the popular imagination, it’s probably best to save the booze for appropriate social situations.
As for other substances, all I will say on the matter is that, whilst they have been useful to an extremely small number of creative people, they’re probably much more likely to distract you than to motivate or inspire you.
In other words, if you take anything that means that you’re too busy laughing uncontrollably, almost falling asleep, seeing things and/or feeling an unexplainable sense of dread, then you’re probably not really going to be motivated to actually write or make art. So, don’t get high before you write or make art.
So, yes, rituals are an important part of creativity. However, they should always be things that actually help you to create things, rather than an excuse to show off or to get wasted.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂