Tuesday, May 12

Writing Rituals



Someone once asked me if I have any writing rituals that I follow—an interesting question that, of course, immediately started me thinking about turning around three times and chanting or waving a burning rosemary branch around my office. But obviously, that wasn’t what they were asking. Out of curiosity, I Googled “writer’s rituals” and got some
kind of fascinating stuff.

 For instance, Jane Austen awoke around 5 a.m. every morning and played the piano before she made breakfast and started her writing day. Victor Hugo wrote each morning standing at a small desk in front of a mirror. Hemingway wrote standing up too, except he used a typewriter. Hugo even wrote in the nude sometimes so he wouldn’t be tempted to leave his house. (No pictures of that--this article is rated PG!)

Honoré de Balzac would drink black coffee by the gallon to stay awake all day so he could write. Maya Angelou kept an austere hotel room that contained only a bed, a dictionary, a Bible, and a bottle of sherry—it was a place she could write without distractions or interruptions. Stephen King writes 2,000 words every single day, even holidays.

It’s funny how we get into a routine about our work—I’m much more of a ritualist (if that’s not a word, it should be!) about my editing work than I am about my writing. If I have a project due, I take a second cup of coffee up to my office immediately after breakfast and begin work, usually around 7:30 a.m. or so. I work until noon, but I stand up every 45 minutes and stretch. At noon, I walk on the treadmill or go outside to walk or ride my bike for an hour and then after a very light lunch, I go back to work until 5 p.m. I stay away from the Internet when I’m working because it becomes a serious distraction and I have to have complete quiet to edit. I have editor friends who work in front of the TV and I have no idea how they do it.

The other thing is, I'm kinda anal about my office and I hate having people sitting around in it when I'm trying to work. Don't bring your coffee cups, food, papers, magazines, cell phones, or even your creaky shoes into my office when I'm trying to work. Don't make a mess in my space. The fur will fly, I promise, so just... don't.

I never thought about having writing rituals, although I usually write at night, after my household is asleep, so quiet, I guess, is part of what I want for writing as well as editing. Sometimes I play music that suits the mood of what I’m writing. I always wear my yoga pants and a tank top or sweatshirt because I have to be comfy, and I generally have hot tea or coffee beside me. One thing that might be considered a ritual is that when I sit down to write, the first thing I do is reread the preceding scene or chapter—it gets me started and reminds me where I’m headed. 

How about you? Any rituals when you write?

8 comments:

  1. I like music when I write, instrumental - but not instrumental versions of popular songs...that is distracting. When I'm revising and editing, I have a playlist of songs that remind me of the book. Other than that, no rituals here, either. Sometimes I write at my desk but more often than not it's at the kitchen bar or my cozy chaise in the living room. Or if it's a busy summer day I'll shut myself into RadioMan's office because it has a door that locks so I can't be disturbed.

    Fun post, Nan!

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    1. Kristina, you aren't the only one who uses music and I totally get the thing about instrumentals being distracting. I hate to have to come up with the words myself!

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  2. I don't think I have any real writing rituals other than to check my blog and email in the morning, play music, and have a snack around 2:30-3:00. haha

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    1. Sounds like it might qualify, Chrys! Thanks for coming by!!

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  3. I do the look-over-yesterday's-work thing and I need quiet--I'm not sure if anything else qualifies. Every morning before coming to the office, I unload the dishwasher and load the washer. Oh, and I waste far too much time online--more habit than ritual, but bad anyway.

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    1. Yeah, don't we all waste far too much time online? Yikes! But I learn a lot that way and I keep up with friends, which in my solitary profession, is a good thing, yes? Bises, baby!

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  4. My first drafts are done the old-fashioned way--pen and paper. Right now, I'm partial to Sharpie's Liquid Pencil or Pilot's Acroball--in pretty, pretty colors. For paper, I use graph paper because it doesn't feel like a commitment. I can write in the margins, upside down, or sideways.

    Hand to paper makes me ponder better than a computer and I can take it anywhere with me.

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    1. Definitely a ritual, Margie! I love the graph paper--how cool!

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