Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Small Rituals

111710 040 The alarm goes off. Snooze for ten minutes. Alarm goes off again. Roll out of bed, pad downstairs, turn on the coffee maker. Feed cats. Open blinds. Grab pen and paper. Pour coffee. Sit, sip, and sketch out the day.

A routine. It’s mostly habit, often automatic, and doesn’t take a lot of thought. Routines structure our days, help us get things done, and are part of the fabric of family time.

Rituals, on the other hand, are celebrations. Sure, there are the biggies – weddings, graduation ceremonies, special occasions like birthdays or holidays. But small rituals can enrich each every day.

teaThere are relaxing rituals – a bath with candles and maybe a glass of wine. A cup of tea in the afternoon while flipping through a magazine. Or work rituals like putting on an apron and ceremoniously rolling up one’s sleeves before diving into a kitchen mess.

Yes, even cleaning can be a kind of celebration.

Writing rituals help get me to the keyboard, to the page. They signify what I’m doing is important. They trigger focus, creativity, and a commitment to make significant progress. They aren’t necessary – I can write while standing at the kitchen counter, during the television news, at a picnic table or in the car. But I firmly believe that ritual enhances the writing experience, especially if I’m stuck, slogging, or uninspired.

111710 037The key to ritual is to engage all the senses. A couple drops of rosemary essential oil on the terra cotta disk by my desktop hourglass is a primitive reminder of what I’m about to do. I don a particular pair of reading glasses only in my office. A fountain burbles in the corner. Tiny white lights in grapevine spheres twinkle in a copper basket in another corner.

111710 044Each different kind of writing involves a cup of something. There’s peppermint tea for outlining, plotting, or first drafts, spicy Constant Comment for blogging (ha!), black tea or coffee for reviewing and editing, and green tea for promotional work. I have certain pens for certain activities, and even sit in different places. The desk is for editing and promotion. The peach-covered chair that belonged to my great-grandmother is where I write and rewrite fiction. The big, poofy blue chair is an ergonomic place for a 5’1” woman to snuggle in and blog, review manuscripts, research or plan.

When writing, rewriting, or reviewing I prefer white noise in the background. Often that’s the sound of the ocean. Blog posts mean some kind of funky organ jazz lately – think Medeski, Martin and Wood – while classical music serenades editing and research activities.

What kind of small rituals have you created to celebrate simple daily activities?

1 comment:

  1. I have a coffee, breakfast, newspaper ritual in the morning. My whole day is messed up if I don't follow that routine.