Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Don't Mess with the Writing Ritual


I am a creature of habit. Based on previous posts, you may think this is due to some undiagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Nah. It’s purely a matter of protection from myself.

90% of the time, 
my brain is not fully engaged in the moment.

It’s trying to recall the vivid dreams of how my protagonist is going to progress/survive/out-fart a demon. (Wha? Not every fantasy battle requires blood loss.) I like waking up in that mid-realm between reality and dreams. I’m totally thrilled to be able to fire up the laptop and launch straight into wherever my dreams are directing the story.

I’m not so fine when the toothpaste is not in its bucket on the right side of the sink, one full arm extension and a shoulder-twitch from my reach.  

That’s how I get a mouthful of zit cream.

The resulting tirade inevitably includes, “Who messed with the Zohan?” That leads to a spiral of quoting Adam Sandler movies, which then devolves into singing Adam Sandler songs, and then bottoms out with “The World’s Longest Pee.”  

Gone is the GENIUS of the dream.

Left behind is the giggling pubescent me, who would much rather do anything except work. My morning should unfold thusly:
     Phase 1: Wake, Potty, Beastie Out, Coffee, Beastie Fed, Laptop ready
     Phase 2: Dream Dump (as in words, people, not poo)
     Phase 3: E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Blog Troll (1-hour on these, no more)
     Phase 4: Re-read/Edit work from previous day, Write, Write, Write

I am super crankypants when any part of that goes awry, because I know my weakness is doing anything but that which I am supposed to do. 

Case: Yesterday, birds decided to make a nest in the light over my front door. One of the glass panes is gone, giving the poo-bombers a nice cozy space to make a home…until I turn on said lights and hardboil their young. This seemingly minor distraction ended up wasting two hours of research on replacement fixtures. 

Were I still in a corporate setting, going MIA from work for two hours would result in a Performance Improvement Plan, also known as Step 1 in Firing an Employee. The accountability doesn’t change simply because I am my own employer.

Working from home requires rituals.
Rituals lead to habits that result in productivity.

What sort of things are guaranteed to derail your writing habit? Which of those things are within your control to keep from breaking the ritual?


  1. Yes - I so agree. That's why I'm so militant about writing rituals. If I don't ritualize it, the writing time drifts away into the vast wasteland of where the hell did the day go?

  2. "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.” -Zig Ziglar

    Saw that on Twitter the other day and it tickled me.

  3. Okay, you ritual people are making me want to creep into a corner of the barn and hide under the hay, like the dog that got into the hen house. Wait, I don't have a barn, and the neighbors might not understand the cowering, shamed writer. Instead of routine & ritual, I have a handful of excuses: my schedule is erratic, I have different patches of writing time available on different days, I - Blah, blah, blah. Time to make some changes.

  4. Bwah-ha-ha-ha - come over to the ritual side! We have rewards, too.

  5. Hatez the "Where the $#%@ did my day go" when there is scant progress on the WiP!

    "I kinda feel like an idiot sometimes. Although I am an idiot, so it kinda works out." -- Billy Madison

    Kerry, no hiding. Jeffe will let you borrow her Valkyrian armor and sword so you can defend your writing rituals.

  6. Oh, well then. So long as I get armor and a sword. All is well.

  7. you can even have a set of your own!

  8. Ack. With me, the better question would be 'what doesn't derail my writing habit?' Today I made myself a promise to stay on track. We'll see how that works out.

  9. @Kerry - don't worry about it - I'm right up there with you. I've got no habit of which to speak either.