Its a historical fact that humans love rituals.  Think about it– we do them everyday as we are all creatures of habit.  Don’t ask us to deviate from our routine.  We freak out like Rain Man in a Wal-Mart.  What all of us want is to go to the same places, eat the same things with the same people day after day, ad nauseum.  Unfortunately, there isn’t as much of that as we’d like, so we create these rituals for ourselves to follow:  putting on both socks, then moving on to shoes; sitting in the same pew in church every Sunday; making a hot dog with the mustard and onions on bottom, then the wiener, then the chilli.  We all do it because we’re all freaks and there’s not much we can do about it except just conform to the ritual and get it over with.

The same is true of writing.   As a writer I’ve noticed that I am the most productive when I follow a certain ritual.  Every Thursday afternoon, my best friend Susan and I head out together about 5:30pm.  We stop at one of a myriad of places and have dinner.  Then we immediately go to the local Starbucks, plop our asses in chairs, order Venti White Chocolate Mochas (no, we don’t even have to order anymore) and write.  If any part of this magical equation is missing, we fall apart.  Its as if we are unable to cope with the ups and downs of sitting in a new place.  Or not having coffee.  I’m convinced that this ritual is why I often have a difficult time sitting down at home and writing for 3 hours at a clip.  That and the distractions of Facebook , Skype and Second Life.  Hell, I even get into a repetitive ritual with my song selection.  When I’m writing a sex scene, I have to listen to :wumpscut:’s “Wreath of Barbs” on a loop or its useless.  Sometimes, I even have to search through endless playlists trying to find just the right song to fit my writing mood of the day.  But once I find it– whoa Nelly… look out.  I can listen to the damn song for hours if it will get the scene going.

Now, are rituals bad?  There are some schools of thought that say YES!  That if we train our brain to a ritual, that we’ll never be able to live without it.  And I can see that point of view.  If I have to write at the Starbucks, what will I do when I get home?  Chances are I’ll sit there and look at a blank page all night.  But then, at least the ritual offers some productivity and I can’t argue with that.  My point is– do what works for you.  If you have a ritual, try to keep it simple and portable.  Try to find some way to recreate that same feeling that you have in the Starbucks and God willing, you can make the magic in other places.  That being said, you’ll never make any progress if you don’t follow this one basic ritual… Are you ready?  I’m going to change your life—- GET YOUR ASS IN THE CHAIR AND DO IT, ALREADY!

And now… I have to follow my own advice…..

One thought on “Rituals

  1. Amen, my sister! Though I do have a kernel of hope to offer – you can eventually retrain yourself to a new ritual when you have to. I used to only write on legal pads sitting up in bed in absolute solitude – if anybody knocked on the door and spoke to me, I was knocked completely out of the mood for at least fifteen minutes. Now I write best in notebooks sitting in a booth at a restaurant with headphones on my head, and I can take interruptions pretty much in stride. I suspect my affect and conversation during those interruptions might be frighteningly zombie-like, but I can still say, “yes, more Mountain Dew would be groovy, thanks” without having to stare into space for half an hour to find the story again.


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