Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A ritual is patterned, coded behavior performed in expectation of producing a desired result,say rain or a bountiful hunt.  It may also be an offering to a deity.  Ritual may also be performed as an educational venture, its purpose to impart and maintain cultural values.

The most significant ritual associated with writing is the application of words to a medium such as paper, or digitally on a screen, or verbally in some voice-recognition program that stores the results.  From this ritualistic behavior, all fiction, nonfiction, and poetry come into life, carrying with them the associated mystery and magic implicit and explicit in their creation.

Those who write on a regular basis--at least six times a week--are apt to attach ritual of some behavioral sort to the process, notwithstanding the transfer of the process to muscle memory, where indeed no thought is required.  They simply write.  Your own rituals for engaging the activity include a variety of ventures frequently involving coffee and reading of periodicals; on other occasions music of idiosyncratic choice.  These and undoubtedly more occult behavior patterns not readily apparent to you are more or less regular launching pads but do not require the rigorous attention to detail needed by someone more compulsive or obsessive as you.  The very presence of all the qualifiers in your observations of this paragraph serve to reassure you that you could and do begin working where ever you happen to be, at any time after you have had some measure of coffee, and that you adhere to no particular device to get started.  

The true portal to putting words on a page is an emotion or combination of emotions, producing an image somewhere within your psychic frame.  You enter that door, bursting in on a rush of feeling, hoping to either describe or dramatize the array of feelings.  It is much of a piece with the first kiss of someone you would not mind becoming a lover to, inviting, promising, evoking an intense wish for detail and familiarity.  This is an apt but dangerous metaphor; how many times in either situation have you gone beyond that first kiss, then quickly reached the What-have-I-got-my-self-into? stage.

Discoveries, if they are to retain any significance, are fraught with consequence; thus do you require some part of the ritual to get you in for at least a page worth of words and directions; thus do the rituals that get you writing require your entry cue to be some form of vulnerability to some form of awareness or consequence.


Storm Dweller said...

There are many pieces that I've written that have taken me to the what-have-I-got-myself-into? stage... and generally they are the best liked ones though they are the least comfortable to share.

My word verification which makes me giggle at the moment is bedisin. Interesting given the simile of a potential lover.

Sarah said...

It's the "some form of vulnerability" part that rituals are designed for, like the topical numbing gel before the shot under the skin. Unfortunately I am ritual-resistant, and simply have to take it in the arm each time, no numbing agent to aid me. It's this that makes writing so exhausting, not the writing itself. Somehow, summoning up the courage needed to self-administer the plunge, never remembering that "this won't hurt a bit."