Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The importance of creative rituals

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“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
- Chuck Close

For years now I’ve used a very simple way to mark the moment when it’s time to write: I light a stick of incense.

There is something very primal and powerful in the act of setting something aflame, whether it’s incense or a candle or some sage. It sets a meditative, purposeful mood that brings on a certain kind of focus and atmosphere.

So when my incense starts, that means my writing starts – no matter what. I don’t wait for words to appear. I just get to work.

Creativity is often mistakenly categorized with chaos. But having something that acts as a reset button for you daily – whether it something as simple as lighting a candle or just turning off your phone at the same time every day – it signals that it’s time for the work to begin.

Having a small creative ritual can also be a way to separate yourself from the rest of the day’s thoughts and activities.

If you write mostly at night, for example, then it can help to feel some separation from the job you were at earlier in the day, conversations you might have had, or news or other information that you heard about.

A creative ritual is like drawing a line in the sand that tells those other things that they will have to wait again until tomorrow, because the night is yours. It can help you reconnect with your work after a busy day.

Here are some other ideas for easy creative rituals that can be implemented into a daily writing routine:

- Listen to the same album or playlist while you write. When that first song starts, you know it’s time to get down to business.

- Light a candle or some incense.

- Make a pot of tea.

- Go out for a short walk. When you get back, the writing can begin. (This is also a good way to end a writing session.)

- Burn some sage. Sage is believed to have cleansing properties and can help to clear your head of anything that might distract you from your work.

- Have a sweater, pair of slippers, or a piece of jewelry that you always wear when you write. When you are wearing your "writing sweater," it sends out the message that you are in the zone.

- Say a mantra or intention before you begin your work.

- Do a short meditation.

- Turn off your phone and put it away in a closet or somewhere else that’s hidden. Even though it’s a small, simple act, it sends a clear message that you are serious about what you’re working on and you’re not allowing for distractions.

Do you practice any creative rituals?

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Liz Worth

Liz Worth is a Toronto-based author. Her first book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, was the first to give an in-depth account of Toronto’s early punk scene. She has also released a poetry collection called Amphetamine Heart and a novel called PostApoc. You can reach her at, on Facebook or Twitter.

You can contact Liz throughout the month of October at

Go to Liz Worth’s Author Page