Monday, March 10, 2014

My Writing Rituals


Confession time: I'm the one who suggested we do a series about writing rituals. So I've read my fellow TeachingAuthors' posts with great interest. I didn't know that JoAnn likes to start her day writing in longhand before turning on her computer. Or that Jill tries to exercise first thing, even before breakfast. (Now that's what I call discipline!) Or that Laura, our newest TeachingAuthor, works best when she writes in short, intense bursts. But I was especially surprised to learn that none of them practice what they consider to be true writing rituals.

I'm surprised for two reasons:
1) I've read so many articles about the quirky rituals practiced by writers, such as those mentioned in Debra Eve's article that inspired this series, that I assumed nearly all writers had some sort of ritual.
2) I have several rituals of my own.

There. I've said it. I may turn out to be the only TeachingAuthor with regular writing rituals. If that's the case, so be it. Since I'm the one who suggested the topic, I feel obligated to be honest. Even if it means confessing that my ritual includes prayer, something I don't typically talk about on this blog.

I still remember the first time I heard an author admit that prayer was part of her daily routine/ritual. It was at one of our Vermont College residencies, and someone asked a highly-acclaimed visiting author about her writing routine. I was floored when she told the crowded room that she started every day with prayer. I'd been doing the same for years, but I'd never dreamed of admitting it in public, or hearing a fellow writer admit it. I guess I'd been raised to believe prayer a private matter. Even now, I feel a bit uncomfortable discussing it here. Oh well.

My writing ritual, which has evolved over the years, currently goes something like this:
  • I light a candle and say several short prayers, including one that my work will be a blessing on the world.
  • I pull up the music files on my computer and play some classical music to drown out other sounds/conversations going on in the house.  
  • I open my Daily Tracking Log file on my computer and record my start time.
  • I set a timer for however long I want the current writing session to last.
  • I write until the timer goes off.
courtesy of ferguweb at morgueFile
I recently added another step to this opening ritual after starting a 100-day, one hundred words a day (OHWAD) writing challenge. I read about OHWAD on a friend's Facebook page. The challenge is to write at least 100 words every day for 100 straight days--I'm currently on Day 36. If you miss a day, you have to start back at Day 1. So I've added a step to my writing ritual that includes looking at my previous day's ending word count in my Project Log and calculating my goal for today's writing session. (While my minimum is 100 words, my goal is often for 200-300 words/day, or more.) 

My closing ritual includes recording my ending word count in my Project Log, noting my end time in my Daily Tracking Log, and blowing out the candle, if I haven't already done so earlier. (Don't want my office to get smoky.) 

Interestingly, I don't close with a prayer. However, I might add one now after reading about this closing ritual in Eve's article:
"J.D. Moyer jots down ideas for the next day’s session and says a prayer of thanks (even though he’s an atheist)." 
If an atheist is willing to publicly admit that he prays as part of his writing ritual, I guess I have no reason to feel embarrassed. J
____________________

Addendum at 10:30 am Monday: I recently started reading Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (Abrams), by Jeff Vandermeer and this morning I checked out his "Chapter 1 Extra" about Discipline on the book's companion website. Vandermeer advocates giving up writing rituals, what he calls "fetishes," because they may actual give you an excuse not to write. You can read what he says on this page.

Happy Writing!
Carmela

10 comments:

CEPlatt said...

Carmela, anyone who has read Rosa Sola knows that your work is, in fact, a blessing on the world!

Carmela Martino said...

Thank you so much, Cynthia! That means a lot to me, coming from you.

Jone said...

Thank you for giving me a prompt to write about for Slice of Life Story Challenge. Writng for 31 days this month.

Eileen M. said...

Carmela, you are not alone in believing in the power of prayer! Many of us do to give thanks for each day, to ask for support for loved ones, and even to ask for inspiration in our work and writing. Great post. I have a candle on my desk for decoration but rarely use it, perhaps I need to light it and enjoy the calm atmosphere it may create!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely ritual, Carmela.
Beautiful post.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely ritual, Carmela.
Beautiful post.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely ritual, Carmela.
Beautiful post.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely ritual, Carmela.
Beautiful post.

Pen N. InkBlog said...

I like your ritual!
I may start doing that.
I try to start each day with morning pages and meditation but I am easily sidetracked.

Carmela Martino said...

Jone, I'm so glad to have helped. Good luck with your challenge!
Eileen, thanks for letting me know I'm not alone. :-)
Esther, glad you enjoyed the post--four times over!
Pen N Ink, I think we each have to find what works for us. Good luck to you!