The elusive "perfect" writing ritual
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How is September going for you? Mine is full of renewed creative energy and a desire to click PUBLISH! A new writing project introduced below, and some stuff that's truly inspiring me below THAT. :) Enjoy!


What I learned about writing rituals

  • "Write every day" is the beginning of any good ritual
  • "Write every day" is just the beginning

I want to push "publish" regularly again. I have been writing every day, without fail, for a year now. But the more I write every day, the larger the gaps in between what actually gets published.

Every day for Hello, Month. Then once a week for The Year of the Nation. Then once a month for you, as a mailing list reader. Then...where did you go, Sarah?

I'm here. I'm just writing. 

My writer-friend Mike Speegle asks me, "So, what are you writing, Sarah J. Bray?" And I usually say, "A lot. I wrote 10 pages yesterday. But that was writing, not Writing. I'm not doing much Writing."

"Write every day" is the beginning of any good ritual

Julia Cameron's morning pages have gotten me filling lots and lots of notebooks. Mike has now gifted me with a fountain pen that I can fill up with ink so I don't use up so many disposable pens.

But all those words are pretty useless when it comes to publishing. I've seen so much change in my life that I attribute to the power of morning pages, but none of it has actually helped me publish.

I think it's because my stream-of-consciousness writing looks like "being frustrated/excited on paper". It's mostly about the future; what I want to happen, or what I think could happen. So while it propels me to make changes in my life, it doesn't do much for sharing what I've learned.

But the interesting part is, I've been writing every single day for a year. Historically, I haven't been able to accomplish any goal every single day for more than a week. If I can harness the power of that kind of ritual and turn it into something I want to publish, then I will be set.

"Write every day" is just the beginning

I have tried turning my morning pages ritual into something that I publish, even though Julia Cameron warns against it. But the effortlessness of morning pages – that there are literally no expectations – gets destroyed when you do that.

So I wondered, "what if I started writing a different kind of pages every day before bed?" What if they were also stream-of-consciousness, but my mind was focused in a direction that would be more useful for sharing?

I decided to start reflecting on my day through the lens of what I had learned

I do this all the time naturally. At some point in every conversation, I end up gesticulating wildly while talking about how the books I've been reading, the events that have been happening, the conversations I've been having, are all coming together into THIS PARTICULAR realization, and isn't it amazing?!?!

Sometimes I even get self-conscious about it. "There I go, talking again about these seemingly disconnected things. But OH MY GOSH it's so TRUE!"

A ritual for every writing problem that ails you

Writing every day is powerful, but it is not always so simple. Some writing projects need more of a framework. Here are the questions that I am asking myself to help me create those frameworks:

  • What is true for me? (To who I am and what I want to say?)
  • What is true for other people? (To who they are and what they want to do and be in the world?)
  • What is repeatable? (What do I enjoy doing naturally; what pulls me to it?)
  • What is the process that gets me from writing to Writing? (From stream-of-consciousness to fully-fledged published piece?)

I have different rituals for different writing projects. 

For a novel I'm writing, Mike and I have made a word-count pact with each other. He will write 2000 words and I will write 366 (it doesn't sound fair, but I have broken a lot of writing promises to myself and have to start small).

For a book about nation-building, I am writing it for a real-life person. I send her a part, she does the exercises, and then she sends it back. It is a self-perpetuating ritual that benefits both of us.

And now, I finally have a ritual for blogging and email-writing. I'm calling it "What Sarah Learned", and it is based entirely on my reflections of what I'm learning every day. It feels like all of my thoughts becoming tangible, and it is the biggest relief and joy I've experienced in my writing in a long, long time.

I'll be writing these for my blog, and every so often, I'll be choosing some of my favorite things to send to you. Here is the first one I've published on my blog, on what I learned about brevity (should be fun, since I am the QUEEN of brevity. Obviously.)

<3, Sarah


“It is good to remember that the entire universe, with one terrifying exception, is composed of others.”



What I learned about brevity

I'm a lover and proponent of words. "People don't read" is a philosophy I've never subscribed to, and hopefully never will. But a few things took me by surprise this week.


Lynn Fisher's CSS drawings

My teammate Lynn is a magician. She "drew" these using only CSS – not a single image is involved; only code. Jaw officially dropped.


Amber Case on how tech brings out the best/worst in us

"The best technology makes people superhumans – the worst makes them feel destroyed by it." (You must watch this.)


"It's good to learn to suspend the fear of failure. Game structures can be very useful for that, because failure is built into games. ... If you miss the ball playing baseball, it doesn't mean you're playing baseball wrong. It just means you're playing baseball."

I read The Chairs Are Where The People Go after a conversation with my friend Lauren Bacon, who then sent it to me. It now has a prominent place on my bookshelf, right next to The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. HIGHLY recommend.


 A few other bits of news and happenings before you continue on with your morning:

  • I've made some updates to to make it a little easier to not get lost.
  • If you love writing JavaScript but hate coming back to it later with no idea what is going on with your code, you might want to come to this. It's craaaaazy-awesome.

That is all, friends! I'm really looking forward to the most wonderful fall with you.

<3, Sarah