Friday, March 7, 2014

Writing Rituals--Or Not

Hi! I’ll introduce myself more in a future post, but I’m Laura Purdie Salas, a temporary Teaching Author. I’m so happy to be here!

Rituals. Hmmm…I was treadmilling the other night, listening to a lovely episode of NPR’s Backseat Book Club featuring Lucy Dahl, Roald’s daughter. Start at 3:40 for a fascinating glimpse into Roald’s writing setting and rituals. I wish I had such definite, comforting rituals. But I don’t.

I do have a few elements I return to, though: light, movement, and time.
Photo: Ikea

1) Light – Sometimes I light a little candle before writing. A flickering light sets my mind at rest, somehow. I have a lantern given to me by a dear writer friend that I love to write by. 

When I’m lazy but still want that flicker, I light my little febreze fake candle:>) Excuse me: Febreze Flameless Luminary.

And when I’m super-busy, I just write by a window, with the blinds slatted upward so I get glimpses of trees and sky, but not distracting cute bunnies in the yard.

2) Movement: When I’m frustrated with my writing, I move. Can’t think of the right word? I’ll pace around the kitchen/dining room circle, or go walk Capt. Jack (when it’s not 20 below zero), or even just stand up and do 30 squats.
Photo: DuBoix,
courtesy of Morguefile

3) Time: Deadline-setting is really my only consistent ritual. I learned to be a writer in tiny bursts while blocking out life stresses. I still write best in small, intense chunks. No matter what kind of project I'm working on, I start the same way. I look at the clock. I look at the project. Panic shoots through me at my day's to-do list. Then I breathe and set a timer. “Rough draft of this poem. 20 minutes. Go.” Even if I have 3 straight hours of writing time, I probably work on 3-5 different projects during that time, each with its own deadline.

So, there you have it. Three sort-of routines. It would probably be simpler if I just started with a mug of cinnamon tea every day or something:>)

--Laura Purdie Salas


Irene Latham said...

I'm also in the sort-of routine camp... I don't like the idea of MUST DO XYZ, because I think it takes away our power... what happens if we don't have XYZ? Important to know those words are always there waiting... nice to see you on TA website, Laura!

Patricia Cruzan said...

Thanks for sharing your rituals with us. I like the one about the light the best.

Susan B James said...

My life ritual is a cup of cinnamon honey tea in the morning.
Love the light idea.
I've started setting my phone timer for writing. Too many things to do. If I set a time for 30 minutes, I can do a burst of whatever presents itself. Research for NF Book, revise adult WIP, promote the book that came out.
If I don't set the timer my mind latches on to one thing and nothing gets done.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

My mind can never decide what to do first in a task filled day. Short bursts work well for me. It keeps my editor in check.

Linda said...

I also usually write in short bursts of time, mostly because that's all my schedule will allow. I like having a cup of tea while I write, but I often get so involved in what I'm working on that the tea gets cold before I drink it!
Great to see you here, Laura!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I found your discussion of deadline-setting particularly useful, Laura. I struggle so much with being busy all day long, but never feeling "productive." I think setting a timer might help keep me focused and not distracted by other things.

laurasalas said...

Hi, everyone--Just seeing your comments (I was out of town visiting family), and thank you for them.

Michelle--YES! I hate that feeling. Well, I'm plenty productive, but not always on the projects my hearts wants to be productive on. Do try a timer--maybe it'll work for you:>) It's always great to try new approaches and see if something will happen to work right now in your life.

Linda, I hear you on the cold tea. That happened all the time. For Christmas, I got a Contigo thermos in a pretty metallic cranberry color, and it keeps my tea hot so long! The first few days, I kept getting up to empty it out when I noticed it sitting there, ignored, because I assumed the tea would be cold by then. Ouch! Not cold. Now I can nurse a hot caramel apple tea for a couple of hours:>)

Pen N. InkBlog, I think you must be exactly right. When that timer is set, the inner editor seems to know its beaten, somehow:>)

Susan, I love the idea of mixing the timer with "whatever presents itself." Technology and short burst plus freedom. Nice.

Patricia, thanks for dropping by. There is something about fire (and water, too) that seems to ignite some elemental creativity.

Irene, that's a great point about routines. What did Dahl do when he COULDN'T be in that exact place at that time? Could he still write? I don't know. But I don't like to think of having to have certain elements in order to write or be creative. But I do like to think of creativity as worth being coddled a bit with candles or hot tea or timers or whatever works for you:>)

Thanks, everyone!

Carmela Martino said...

The page I linked to in my Monday post (on the WONDERBOOK website) addresses the very point Irene raises about how rituals can hold us back if we're too rigid. I'd never thought of it that way before. You can read it yourself here:

And thanks for a great "first post" with us, Laura!