Do you have any strange writing rituals? Things that get you into the right frame of mind for writing? Or do you just show up at the desk?

Can you listen to music when you write? Or do you need dead quiet?

Do you write at a certain time every day (or night)? With a special pen or notepad?

Do you write naked? (On second thoughts, don’t answer this one.)

While standing?

I’m pondering this today (and keen to know your answers) because for the last couple of weeks I haven’t felt any inclination to write (I’ll come back to that later) and I feel like I need a bit of a jolt to zap my mind back into action. More on that later …

I put it out there on Twitter:

Chocolat and The Testament of Loki author Joanne Harris responded with:

My Shed tweets are the equivalent of a getting-started ritual. That, and scent…

Here’s a sample of her Shed tweets:


Vasilisa the Wise and Other Brave Tales and Bitter Greens author Kate Forsyth said:

I write in my diary, walk near the water, drink tea & read over what I wrote yesterday

The Faerie Thorn author Jane Talbot said:

On writing days I allow for APoMP [Adequate Period of Morning Procrastination  and start work 10am latest. Any later than 10 and I’m DOOMED ! When I get stuck, I go for a run and work ‘on the move’. I’ve ‘run into’ some of my best ideas []

And writer Ariana Allen said:

‘Music, music, music. All genres are embraced when I need inspiration. They bring different moods and perspectives.’

So what about me? How do I prepare myself to write when the muse visits?

It depends on my mood and what I’m writing. I like to brew a fresh pot of tea, smooth on some Mythic Muse solid perfume from Tinderbox, light a scented candle … basically, just make my space comfortable and inviting.

And if anyone is at home, I put on headphones (not so weird unless you consider that sometimes I’m not actually listening to anything – it’s more a sign to the others to leave me alone).

Oh, I forgot to mention that I do need the kitchen to be clean. It’s because I can see it from my desk. If the young adults are making Vegemite buns or two-minute noodles, I have to wipe the bench properly after they’re done. Trust me, their version of a clean bench and mine are different (one version has no-added crumbs and I like that one better).

When it comes to writing, I write at the keyboard, so unless my desk is messy (yes, that needs to be tidy too), I just start tapping at the keyboard and the letters go forwards … and backwards. It’s always a thrill when there’s more forward motion than backward!

Whether I listen to music (and what sort) depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes I use music to get me into a particular emotional zone or to help me describe a scene. Other times, I don’t want sound at all.

Interestingly, when I wrote my first novel, Wherever You Go, I found myself listening to songs when I needed to write from the character Matt’s point of view. Songs like Disturbed’s cover of ‘Sound of Silence’, Queen’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ and Matt Corby’s ‘Resolution’ helped me get into his jumbled head space.

And when I wrote the book’s food feast scenes (yes, lots of food in this book), I listened to music that complemented the food’s country of origin (such as French café music) or something explored within a scene (such as this Vietnam War Era Music Spotify playlist).

I’ve even listened to café sound effects to get a description right (sadly, that time led to listening to cat sound effects to see my cat’s reaction. AKA procrastination.)

Another thing I’ve been known to do is cook the meals I write about, so I can describe them properly. Blue Eyes certainly didn’t complain about the from scratch French Soupe l’oignon or the Moroccan Star Anise and Cinnamon Cocktail I made while writing Wherever You Go.

And, sometimes, I … and this is embarrassing, I sort of act out the dialogue (when no one is home, of course) with Oscar-winning appropriate and soap opera-worthy reaction looks. It helps … except when someone walks in mid-act.

So, why haven’t I been writing? Call it a slump, a need for personal time out, or a head that’s too full … that pretty much sums it up. I’m between books at the moment, and I’ve recently finished writing a short story about homesickness, but I haven’t been able to settle to my next project.


My mindset is shifting.

I just need to allow myself some time out so I’m in the right space.

Which comes back to preparation.

[bctt tweet=”If you sow seeds in unprepared soil, chances are you’ll get more weeds than flowers or veggies. ” username=”MoniqueMulligan”]

Right now, I’m giving myself the nutrients (physical and emotional) that I need for a strong, healthy writing mind. And then I’ll be back at my desk watching cat videos making Spotify playlists working on my next manuscript.

You can check out my Spotify playlist here.



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

2 Responses

  1. What a delightful post, Monique. I, too, find myself battling procrastination at times (more often than I’d like, to be honest), but I mostly like to write in a quiet environment — not completely silent, but with minimal background noise. I love the idea of mood music, though, and have compiled a playlist to help me reminisce about the time period during which my first novel is set. It brings back some wonderful memories, and it’s interesting that many songs I couldn’t stand during the 1970s sound much better when listened to through the filter of nostalgia.

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