Most of us are creatures of habit. Writers, especially, fall into that category. We’re probably not as bad as big-league baseball players who have more rituals than a pasture full of priests, but we, too, can be pretty odd when it comes to warm-ups. Milton, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and more recently, Stephen Pressfield (War of Art*), all recited Homer’s “Invocation of the Muse” before plunging into their work.
(This intrigued me enough to look for a copy of the esteemed poet’s immortal words. Alas, they were written in ancient Greek, a language clearly beyond my humble skills. So I went looking for a translation. Just one. I found… many. This link should take you to a list of seven, one of which may get you fired up, and if so, more power to ya! However, the variations left me wondering if they all really started with the same text. [shrug])
All that aside, it’s probably a good idea to observe a bit of ritual before launching into a writing session. It could be a simple thing like pouring a cup of coffee and reviewing the previous work session’s output, and that’s about the extent of mine. Or it might call for tidying up one’s workspace before digging in, but clearly, I’m guessing at this as I’ve never straightened up a work area in my life. (Ask my bride, but also check out the photo of Mark Twain’s workspace.) No one will think ill of you if you do something minimal. We’re writers, after all, not automatons. We don’t need a ceremony, an extensive set of exercises, and/or ritual ablutions before we get busy. Right?
Ballplayers, on the other hand, have been known to go to serious extremes before, during, and after they get down to business. Buttoning and unbuttoning batting gloves, not changing “lucky” socks (or [shudder] underwear), taking a precise number of practice swings, spitting on, at, over, or around home plate — all are common practices. There are worse things I suppose. Animal sacrifice comes immediately to mind.
Most of us aren’t athletic enough to qualify for the pros, so we can settle for more modest efforts and perform our rituals in the privacy of our own workspace. For some, just having some sort of workspace to claim would be a big improvement. If you don’t have your very own spot, consider finding one as a goal for the coming year. You won’t regret it.
For those rare types who don’t have any writing rituals, pray tell, what’s wrong with you? Isn’t it high time you got your game face on? Writing is serious business, so if you want to get started on the right track, do something serious! Challenge the Muse to back off and let you wing it on your own. To paraphrase a line from “Blazing Saddles,” you don’t need no stinkin’ muse!
Just get busy.
Until next time,
*The full title is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.