“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Writing Rituals, No Components Required
Thu 2009-10-01 09:46:09 (in context)

The good thing about writing rituals is, they perform the purpose of any ritual. Which is: to shift your mindset in a conducive direction. Conducive to what? To whatever you're doing ritual for. Going to Mass puts church-goers in a frame of mind more in touch with God, community and prayer. Casting the circle puts Wiccans in a headspace where worship and magic come naturally. And writing rituals, theoretically, make it easier to achieve the focus needed for a productive writing session.

The traditional disadvantage to writing rituals is depending on them. I like to light a yellow candle, sip a mug of Assam or Pu Erh Tuo Cha, and turn on something instrumental and pleasant that won't monopolize my brain, like Blue Man Group: Audio or the Ink movie soundtrack. The combination generally turns on the "Time to write!" switch in my brain. But what if there's no quality tea to be had, the mp3s are on the other computer, and I'm in a no-flame zone?

So I'm trying to come up with writing rituals that require no external components, such that I'm never unable to perform them. This would make relying on them no downside at all. Well, except for the one perceived by people who like to huff that "if you need tricks to get you writing, you aren't a real writer." People like that can just ignore this post, kthxbai.

Three things you always have with you when you write:

  1. Something to write with
  2. Something to write on
  3. Something to write about
That's guaranteed. (Even the third. Maybe you don't know what you're going to write about, but it'll come.) Any writing rituals which require these three components are safe; you'll never be without them when it's time to perform the (w)rite.

For a while my thoughts were excessively religious. "The pen is my athame, which is Fire; the paper represents Earth and the ground I walk on; inspiration is Air; my imaginative attention to the world around me is Water." Except I'm not always using a pen, and my writing isn't always particularly imaginative. I mean, it's hard to get all RomantiWiccan about Demand Studios articles with titles like "How Does the H-R Diagram Explain the Life Cycle of a Star?" (Coming to you soon from eHow.com and Demand Studios and me!)

(And yet writing remains, for me, as much a religious vocation as a career goal...)

So the ritual use of "what I'm going to write with/on" has to accommodate both pen and laptop keyboard, both paper and word processor. The role of "what I'm going to write about" must encompass both the creation of fantastic worlds and the writing of how-to documents.

What I end up with are meditations. Here's one; feel free to use it if you find it useful.

Gaze meditatively at your blank sheet of paper or new word processor document. Envision whatever you plan to write about, even if you have no concrete idea, as a tangible, visible, simple object: a flower, a feather, an apple, etc. See this object on the page/screen. Hold this visualization until it's strong and comfortable.

Now let the object dissolve in your mind's eye and see a Door appearing to take its place. Give it solid detail: see every crack in the wood or inconsistency in its paint. Has it a doorknob? What sort? A doorknocker? Made of what? Is there a peephole? Which side can see through it?

Now see the Door opening. It opens away from you, "inward" from the point of view of someone approaching you. As it opens fully, you see The Muse standing in the doorway, smiling. Let yourself envision The Muse in full detail: gender, complexion, clothing, and all. The Muse need not be adult. The Muse need not be human. The Muse certainly won't be the same every time you do this.

What can you see of the room, or the world, on the other side of the door?

Now The Muse reaches out to you. Imagine that you lean forward, out from the safety of your chair and your body, and you take that offered hand (or paw, or mandible, or tentacle). Imagine that you allow yourself to be drawn through the door.

Remain inside this daydream for a minute or two, experiencing whatever is on the other side of this door.

When you are ready, begin writing.