Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sacrificing Chickens to the Writing Gods

As I was making a pot of coffee this evening, I got the thinking about writing rituals - the little things we like to do, or have "just so", before we write.

For me, one of the key ones is coffee. I don't have to necessarily drink it (I leave half-empty cups near the computer all the time), but I find I have a harder time getting into my writing groove if I don't at least have the smell of brewed coffee near by. Can I write without it? Yes - and have done so plenty of times. But having a cup around seems to make it that much easier for me to ease into the process.

I must compose on a computer. For a long time, it had to be in my office, but I am able to work mobile now, too.

I have to write fiction using WordPerfect. Don't ask me why, but I just don't feel "at home" in Word or any other word processing program. I *do* use Word for plenty of other things, but not my fiction.

My chair has to either tilt, or be solid a enough wooden one that I can lean back in it from time to time.

I will only outline on a yellow legal pad.

There are other conditions I prefer, of course, but the above are rituals or requirements I have found are more or less a must for me. If one of these is gone, I have a harder time sinking into the story and getting anywhere. Like I said in regards to the coffee, I can still do it - I'm just not as happy about it.

So, what little (or big) rituals help you write? Is there something you have to do before you get started, or can you write anywhere, on anything, at any time? What keeps you in your groove, and what missing things can kick you out of it?


Stephanie Zvan said...

I might do better if I had more rituals, but I'm a little afraid of them. I've never been one to think that life won't hand me big surprises, and I'd hate to have to learn how to write all over again if one of my "crutches" got taken away.

I can write anywhere, anytime--with two conditions. No looming deadlines telling me something else must be done now and no people. Well, no people I can't ignore freely. Character interactions drive what I write, and I can't figure out what my characters need to do next if I'm deciding what I need to do. Luckily, my husband knows me better than to take this personally.

Not even being unable to write things down will stop me if the conditions are met. My brain will just go on getting more full until I manage to reach a notebook or keyboard. Part of the reason I started to write, actually. It was getting kind of crowded in here.

Jeff Harrell said...

There's this one little spot on my couch.

I wrote about 450 manuscript pages of a novel sitting at a desk in front of a big computer screen a couple years back. Time's passed, and now my computer is a laptop. Which means technically I can write anywhere.

But there's this one little spot on my couch. Not in the middle, not off-center, but all the way up against the side. With my left arm sort of wedged in next to the cushion. Usually with one leg tucked up under me.

It's possibly the least ergonomically healthy position into which the human body can be torqued. But for some reason, when I wrench my body into that shape, the words just spill out.

It's like wringing out a washcloth.

Kelly McCullough said...

Rituals not so much. I can and have written just about anywhere, but there are things that help.

Caffeine is chief among them. Being able to see the outside is good, the more the better, though I rarely actually look at it. Cool breezes. Nearby cats. No desk--I don't like desks, they make me feel all corporate and straight-jacketed.

lydamorehouse said...

I have to have a "special" note book for outlining, and a good pen.

Otherwise, I had to give up on rituals... especially the one where I checked my e-mail/blogs before I started writing. :-)

Douglas Hulick said...

especially the one where I checked my e-mail/blogs before I started writing.

Yeah, that's a killer.

Speaking of which...damn, I did it again! :)

Anonymous said...

While I went totally decaf a few years ago, I still start off my writing time with a cup of either some coffee or herbal/decaf tea -- usually Columbian or French Roast or Earl Grey. Something with a rich aroma.

Anonymous said...

My current writing computer isn't connected to the Internet. That is probably the reason that I have almost anything written. ;)

My rituals sound a bit more neurotic than you guys, between the stash of Gobstoppers, the swivel chair, and the occasional instrumental music.

I don't /need/ the rituals, they just help. Especially the swivel chair. I have to thrash around and get comfortable and, rather unintentionally, make noise. :D

4n0n3m0u5e said...

I write best when things are going wrong in my life.

Anonymous said...

Strangely, Fred, I write best when things are going well in my life.

I completely understand your position. Most of my early writing compatriots--some of whom I still am in touch with--wrote best under the strain and duress of life's difficulties and burdens. It's a bittersweet batter, but sourdough's a fine bread if handled carefully in each stage.

I noticed, for my part, that in the most strenuous of life's problems, I simp[ly stopped writing. I noted it as a sign of healing when I started up again. I had enough to be able to share again. I didn't feel anymore that I had to save everything for myself, because I didn't believe anymore that everyone else was trying to take it away.

Not true of everyone. True enough for me, though.