Weird Writing Rituals: Wandering, Reclining and Drinking Your Way to a Better Novel

This week Copyblogger featured an article guaranteed to catch my eye: 8 Strange Rituals of Very Productive Writers.  Seventy novels later I guess I think of myself as productive and possibly quite strange. So, of course, I had to find out what odd and amazing things my fellow writers do, just in case I want to add them to my repertoire.

The list began with this.  A number of famous authors, Mark Twain, Marcel Proust, and Edith Warton, among others, liked to write lying down. Note none of them were using computers? I could write propped up in bed, I suppose, with my computer on a stand but don’t quite see the point. By the time I moved all my equipment in place and snuggled in for the count, I would have to make a trip to the bathroom. It’s inevitable. Then the process would begin all over again. So scratch that one, as well as the one about writing standing up. It wouldn’t impede bathroom trips, but I’m tired just thinking about it.

Next I learned that taking a bike ride or walking without a destination might jump start my creativity. Have I ever mentioned that I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was twelve, and only then because I was tricked? I am still the founding mother of the expression “hell on wheels.”  If trips to the emergency room are good for creativity, then bring on the bicycles.

As for walking without a destination? I have lived in enough places where wandering mindlessly is a death sentence, or at least a recipe for a good old-fashioned mugging, so I kind of like to know where I am and why. Let’s scratch that one, too.

As I already knew, lots of writers are best served by music blasting as they work. I began my college life as a music major, and after one entire year of sight-singing classes, I still have a bad habit of do-re-mi-ing every piece of music I hear. Since that’s easily translated into my piano-playing fingers, I can imagine that piece of dialogue:  “Joe, I really can’t so, la, re, find a way to tell you that mi, ti, do.”  Not going to happen.

Here’s a fact I didn’t need to know. John Cheever wrote in his underwear. Mr. Cheever apparently didn’t begin his career with small children underfoot. And now that the small children have children of their own, I am not so enchanted with the body that bore them that I want to literally gaze at my navel as I write. Scratch that one, too. Please!

Invoking divine inspiration? Well, quite honestly, I save my conversations with the Almighty for things like world peace, ending hunger, asking forgiveness. So, no, that’s probably not going to work for me. As for using someone else’s meditation? I would have to memorize it, wouldn’t I? Me, who couldn’t recite my PO Box number on the telephone yesterday.

I’ve skipped a few rituals, but I’ll finish with the most perplexing. Have a drink or two. Really? This worked so well for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda that I should give it a whirl? Try googling “alcoholic writers” for entire websites devoted to the subject, including this one, which lists 15 greats, including Edgar Allen Poe, Hunter Thompson, Faulkner, Joyce and Hemingway. Was alcohol key to their brilliance?  Don’t you wonder how many wondrous works they didn’t write because they couldn’t hold a pen after a night on the town?

Here’s the truth. Almost anything that helps you sit down and write your novel is good. In the long run, it’s not the ritual but the sitting and doing that wins the day.

So that’s where I’ll leave you today. The 9th Strange Ritual? Sitting down and writing. The good news is that nothing is stranger and more wonderful.

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