Friday, April 1, 2011

Writing Ritual

By Marcella Burnard
Word of advice on ritual? Cats and candles don't mix. Take my word for that one. Your homeowner's insurance will thank you.

I'm one of those 'write in the cracks' people. Boredom is the best, most compelling motivation. Bore me and I can (and will) write anywhere. During third period English class. In the middle of the fitness club's cafe. Waiting rooms, ferry lines, where ever. The place that's nearly impossible? My office. Especially in the house where we house sit. There's always something that needs to be done. Rather than sitting with boredom that needs filling, there's a rising sense of guilt over the fact that the laundry hasn't been folded or put away in over a week. The floors haven't been vacuumed in...I forget how long. I used to be better. All the chores were done every day. Writing and house management. It all got done. Clearly, I'm slipping.

The problem seems to be a kind of technology induced ADD. Twitter, Facebook, blogs (the ones I read, as opposed to those I write...), IM, Email - all connecting me with friends I've never met all in far flung places. I'm addicted to checking in all the time - like a junior high school girl more interested in socializing than in school work. As a result, my brain feels pulled apart, fragmented. My focus is scattered and my writing pays the price. Noise fills my head with lists of everything that needs to get done. Stuff I've forgotten or might forget. Until I can shut that stuff up, the stories living inside get drowned out by the rumble of day to day 'Idiot! You forgot the eggs! Again!' voices.

So how to pull the melting brain taffy back into shape? Travel always works for me. Nothing like a good, long road trip to lull frentic brainwave activity into a calmer state. It has the added bonus of cutting you off from technology because you don't text in the car, right?? While I suspect the upcoming five month sailing trip will help, I don't recommend that drastic a travel plan. (I did tell you about this, right? The DH quit his job and we're going up the Inside Passage for five months? Thought so.) Physical exercise works, too, but not the sort that can be done in an hour or two a day. No. Once again, I have to go to extremes, put packs on my bike and ride fifty miles a day for at least three days before the exercise can exorcise the voices. Morning and evening pages (free writing in long hand three pages in the morning and in the evening - anything and everything that's cluttering up the synapses) helps over time. A set of productivity CDs makes a big difference in focus. (I use the Holosync CDs - caution, marketed as if they were snake oil - but the actual CDs do the job for me.) I've also used these.

Ultimately, though, I'll try anything that isn't illegal or patently unhealthy to get words on a page. I don't include immoral in that recitation because my definition of immoral is probably too loose to qualify as a delimiter. Ritual or no, I'm looking for a space of mental silence. Achieving that, I write. When I write, I finally feel like I'm 100% alive.


  1. I have had some good luck with subliminal CD's...may give that a try. Thanks for the tip!

    And your trip sounds fabulous! I hope that it's wonderful - and wonderfully productive!

  2. What a great run-down of "tricks" and techniques. I'm saving this page for someday...

  3. I think you've managed to describe the current condition of my brain. I envy you the five month sailing trip - how awesome and how cleansing that will be. Now that the snow has melted I may need to start walking, especially on my property, through the trees. That is a wonderful head clearing activity.

  4. Great post! Sometimes the ritual of writing can really sap your creativity! Enjoy the sailing, sounds like quite an adventure!

  5. I can relate to so much of what you've said about brain clutter and methods of clearing. I have been craving a road trip, two week vacation for such a long time. Thanks for the reminder of some other methods that can help.