Daily routines give me a sense of right-ness, I admit with unabashed glee. From the moment I wake, ritual reigns supreme. Quiet time with a cup of coffee or hot tea, reciting Sh’ma, speaking aloud a blessing, preparing my boys for school, computer time. The repetitive nature of ritual comforts me, offers structure to measure my days. Writing is no different.
I’ve a writing nook, well, more like an overstuffed chair in the far end of my L-shaped living room. It’s slanted away from television, offering me a view of my side yard. Comfy chair and ottoman, check. Basket-o-notebooks beside, check. Side-table laden with #7 mechanical pencils and Black Pearl erasers, check. Glasses, check. Steaming cup of tea, check. Ahhh! Sweet mysteries of life. Ha! This is my favorite space to sit and conjure words. The sounds of chirping birds, the cool breeze wafting through triple hung windows, the solitude of my mind – these allow for the creative spark to unfurl, for my pencil to scrape across the white pages in steady strokes.
But at times, ritual becomes stifling – gasp! Yes, I’ve said it aloud! When the words will not come, when my muse stamps her foot and refuses to play nicely, sulking in the corner and scowling at me with her pinched face, I deploy counter-measures (sorry, daughter, wife, and now mother to military persons somehow infects one with military speak…lol). I’ll likely never be a ‘free-spirit’, revamping my entire set of habitual routines – I’d probably expire, explode, or freak-out without my structured way of life. But change can be good. For a confessed creature of habit such as myself, those changes come in the form of ‘alternate-habits’. It’s the best way to describe my ridiculous control issues…ha!
Adding soft background music is a favorite ‘alternate-habit’. I can only listen to instrumental music, as catchy lyrics distract me – and believe me; no one wants to hear my singing anyway! At other times, I migrate to my bedroom, spreading my notebooks on the bed and propping myself up with scads of pillows. About once a month, I travel to one of two coffee shops and allow the conversational hum of fellow patrons to envelop me, to lull me into that nirvana of focus I need to become a part of the story.
There are other aspects of writing rituals. For example, I read over the last scene I’ve written, often the last chapter. It pulls me into the mood of the story, reminds me where exactly I was headed, evokes the emotions of my characters. Equally important is reviewing my character profile from time to time. It’s amazing how easy it is to stray from the original vision you set down for a particular character, to absently forget a quirk or theme you’d catalogued for adding character depth and continuity. I write a summary for each chapter, briefly detailing the scenes I want to write and the emotions I want to highlight. At the beginning of each writing session, I review. This helps me with scene transition and foreshadowing. Delish!
While I am an eager advocate for ritual, it’s best to remember that nothing is written in stone! Deviate from your regular same-old-same-old once in a while. You just may discover a new ritual, a new habit that will loose your creativity in unexpected ways and add a little something special to your butt-in-chair-writing-sessions.