Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rituals: I Haz Dem



Do you ever feel that if you do a certain thing in a certain way, everything will be right with the world? The impulse to place or order things is a common one for writers. Most of them I know have rituals, big or small, that they perform on a regular basis - some without even realizing it.

I have mine. Whenever I'm writing, whether it's freelance or fiction, I must open MS Word first, and then my browser, so that Word is the first tab on my taskbar. And I must have a browser window open while I'm writing - whether I'm constantly checking my e-mail, listening to my YouTube playlist, or ignoring the Internet completely. If I'm eager to check my e-mail before I start writing, I will close my browser before I open Word so that the windows are in their proper places.

I also have a little game that I play with myself when I'm doing magazine work. Each of the ads I write has a file name, and we have a template that the ads must be pasted into before we send it into production. After I've pasted the text from my original document into the template, and I have two Word documents open on the screen, I hover the mouse over the original file in the taskbar so the file name pops up in the mouseover box - and then I try to type the file name (which is a series of random letters and numbers) into the template document before the mouseover box disappears. I usually make it, and I get a little burst of satisfaction even though it serves absolutely no purpose.

Another tic of mine: when I finish writing a novel, I must drink hazelnut coffee. If I don't have any in the house, and I'm nearly done with the last chapter, I will stop writing and drive to the store to get some so that I'm ready when it's finished.

What are some of your writing rituals? If you don't think you have any, pay close attention the next time you're writing. I'll bet you do!

3 comments:

Marta Stephens said...

Hmmm interesting question. I'm not aware of any but now that I've read this post, I'm going to start paying attention.

I get terribly distracted by e-mails so when I sit down to seriously start writing, I close my e-mail account. I do need to clear off my desk too. Hmmm I guess I do have a ritual or two, huh? :()

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm worried. I don't have any rituals...

What am I saying! I write the opening. Work on it a bit. Print it out. Pace while I read it aloud. Edit. Edit some more. And when I'm modestly happy, I sit down and write the second chapter, the third, the fourth, until I stop dead, usually around 15,000 words.

That's when I print the entire thing out, write the outline of what I already have, and guess at where the story goes next. I already know the ending. Edit. Nitpick. Edit.

Then I send it to my best-friend, who reads it, calls to say she's so excited that I'm writing again. And this WIP is my best ever. And ... when can she read more!

J F said...

My family has this crazy idea that I'm obsessive/compulsive, and that I'm completely routine-oriented. Well, I took note of how I spent just one day, and oh, dear, they were right. But, with my writing? Couldn't be. Creativity flows free, right? Yeah, sure.

I sit down with the laptop in the same spot in the same way every time. I open my email, check my writing groups (always in the same order), check my blog, then shut the computer down. I go have my coffee (always with my vanilla creamer), then come back and turn the laptop on and begin writing.

Sounds like not a big deal, but if I'm thrown off for some reason, like there's no creamer (I completely understand about your coffee thing), I will go to the market to get some. If they don't have the right kind, I go to another store.

Things DO have to be right, or the words will not come. Is it 'ritual obsessive', is it 'obsessive-compulsive? Can't we just call it 'creative genius eccentricity' and let it go at that? Joyce