Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Writing Rituals, Anyone?

Last night I overheard my husband on the phone talking to one of our friends. "No, Sunday lunch won't work," he said with a heavy sigh. "Hannah stays in her pajamas until two." Later, and somewhat embarrassed, I told him that everyone must think I'm an unsociable couch potato when he knew I was writing. "But you are always in your pajamas at weekends," he said. "You write in them. It's your thing."

The pajama "thing" started on weekdays with having to get up at 4.45 AM to write before heading off to work. I'd move from our bedroom—via the kitchen to collect three cups of coffee (with lids to keep them hot)—and into my office which is really our guest room. I'd clamber into the spare bed which I kept made up with nice pillows and blankets, get my laptop and the cat would jump in too. There I'd stay for two or three hours. At weekends, my writing time simply extended—as did wearing my pajamas.

Without realizing it, I'd created a ritual which had become an important part of my creative process. Anne Lamott in her wonderful book, "Bird by Bird," mentions donning lucky socks; Christa Faust says her office must be immaculately tidy before she can even begin to write; Stephen King insists he has "... my same seat; and the papers are all arranged in the same places." Some writers have piles of jelly beans close by. Others keep the television on—CSI is a favorite—but with the sound off.

I'm curious. Do you think most writers create rituals as they prepare to write? Frankly, I'd love some new ideas. I'm growing rather tired of getting pairs of pajamas for Christmas.

7 comments:

Charlotte Hinger said...

I have to keep a new book a secret. Even from myself. I begin in longhand assuming it will never see the light of day (all too accurate). It shuts down my nasty editorial side for a little while.

Rick Blechta said...

I have an unbreakable ritual for writing.

I get out of bed, come downstairs, turn on the computer and check my emails (answering where necessary), then I look at various online news sites, maybe browse something else that catches my interest. Eventually, I get up to make coffee, then go for a walk, come home, repeat all the above things at the computer, after which I do some graphic design work.

Eventually, it's time to go to bed.

John R Corrigan said...

I listen to the same 20- or 25-song mix the whole time I'm writing a book. I've read of other writers who eat the same food.

Vicki Delany said...

I have no rituals, unlike Rick, and heaven forbid that I should have to have a perfectly clean desk! But I have been known to answer the door at 4 in the afternoon in my jammies.

Hannah Dennison said...

These are terrific comments! Vicki - I am so glad I am not alone in my pajamas; John ... I can't write listening to music but I can write listening to my CD of English garden songbirds; Rick - I find answering emails before I write is the kiss of death on my creativity for the day ... and Charlotte --- I too, can't talk about a new book. It's as if I like to keep the magic in Aladdin's lamp - I don't want to let the genie out. Thanks so much for giving me your thoughts - I just love hearing how other writers write!

peter_may said...

I unerringly begin my day by rubbing the head, then the belly, of a large, fat ceramic buddha that I picked up at a fleamarket in Beijing.

Hannah Dennison said...

Peter .... can you buy me one?