Dojo Summer Sessions: The Writer's Rituals

I think most of us who write, no matter how skeptical or non-superstitious we are, have our little rituals to summon the Muse (not that the wretched entity comes when called). Consider this an invitation to regale us with yours.

I’m not picky when it comes to blogging. I’ve done it in my PJs, but usually sans Cheetos, thus not fully confirming stereotypes. Something arises I wish to pontificate upon, and so pontification occurs. I can blog any time of day or night, in a variety of settings, in various stages of dress or un, with or without prior preparation depending on the subject.

But fiction, that’s a different beast. I’ve successfully written a few times in places outside my home, but that’s a rare thing. Generally speaking, in order to summon the storytelling, I have to be ensconced in my comfy chair in my living room, within sight of my Yoshitaka Amano prints of Morpheus. I must be fully dressed. I’ve never felt comfortable writing fiction in my jammies, although I’ve managed it a few times when the Muse has rousted me out of bed. I must have music playing, and the music must be agreeable to the characters I’m writing. I’ve gotten involved with quite a lot of musical genres I had no use for simply because a particular character required them. Strange, perhaps, but there it is.

Some stories require a clean house. Some require sobriety, some a nice mixed drink. It’s nice to know these things in advance so that writing can commence.

There must be darkness. I have a terrible time writing in daylight, which is why Seattle winters are such a compliment to my writing and its summers make it nearly impossible. That’s fine. A writer needs to get out occasionally, experience life in order to create lifelike worlds, so I just use the summer to accomplish that feat.

I have a special hand soap I use, a very deep floral scent that washes away all traces of the day. I plug in a nice jasmine scented oil. Scent is an important component of emotional states, as science has proved, and those particular scents signal my brain that it’s time to shake off the remains of the day and get on with the real work.

Some stories are helped along by particular shows or movies, even if they aren’t the same genre or atmosphere as what I’m writing. So I might spend an hour or two watching one, before the real work starts. Then, shot full of adrenaline, I have one final preparatory smoke out on the porch, look at the stars (if the Seattle skies have obliged), and sit me down in the chair to invite further forays into the realm of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

It may sound a bit complicated and unnecessary. To non-writers, it probably smacks of madness. But there you are: without at least a handful of those rituals, I sit staring at a blank screen, and words too often refuse to come. I’m sure neuroscience will one day be able to calmly and dispassionately explain all in great detail. It might even come up with ways to persuade the Muse to work even on nights when the rituals have failed, and the brain remains as stubbornly blank as the screen. Until that day, I just stick with what’s worked so far, like a pigeon performing a crazy little dance in the belief that this is what makes the food appear.

Creativity is a weird and wonderful thing, innit it?

Dojo Summer Sessions: The Writer's Rituals

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