Writers have their rituals, don’t they? They have to have their cup of tea, or their blue Bic, or their yellow notepad, or their time of day, or they must be facing West.
I have fewer rituals than I once did. Now that I’m a parent, they’ve dwindled to simple ones like don’t-talk-to-me and can-we-not-scream-right-now. I also prefer to have a window or a big space in front of me (because I read something about it in a feng shui book once and it’s worked for me since).
I believe the writer’s rituals are important though, for two basic reasons.
First, we’re creating the circumstances for success by enforcing a kind of discipline, albeit one that is hiding behind superstition. Because ritual puts us into a routine, which in turn triggers our mind to say, “Okay, we’re in writer mode now, so the rest of you distracting thoughts clear out.” Like any habit, the more we do it, the better we get at it.
But second, this ritual is a kind of magic. Writing is an activity unlike virtually any other. To function in society, we have to wire our brains to speak to us in certain ways. There are certain logic connections we have to make, so that when we interact with others, everybody is on the same page. For example, if you tell me you’re ready to get out of here, I can infer you mean out of our immediate vicinity. I’m making a logical deduction based on context and past experience that you don’t mean the country or the planet. But, in writing, that kind of logic often hinders us whether we realize it or not. Our minds make enormous leaps between unlike objects to create things that are new and fresh and interesting. To harness that power we need a bit of magic. We need to believe in a little super power to craft strange new worlds. And if ritual can bring the lightning down, then by all means, wear the fuzzy Snoopy slippers that you keep tucked in a wooden box in the closet for just such an earth-rattling occasion.