Taking The Ritual Out Of Writing
We are creatures of habit, and as such, patterns of our activities make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Our bodies settle into things, and embrace the rhythm. Nice, right? I’m starting to think that this isn’t always optimal for writing.
The reason is, is that if you want to write and get paid enough money to live from this writing, you basically have to eat, sleep, and then eat more writing. And in addition to all that writing, you need to also be rewriting, submitting, reading, seeing shows, seeing your shows, talking to other writers, and probably exercising so that your body doesn’t fall apart when you’re trying to accomplish all the things. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I can write the way I dream of writing… At school there are a few cushioned booths in the cafeteria, and I love setting up camp there with my head phones and plowing through some pages. But sometimes other people are sitting there (the nerve, I know), or other times I forget my head phones, or sometimes I don’t make it out to school early enough to write before class. I also love writing after my kids go to bed, and before my husband gets home from work. But guess what? Sometimes they don’t go to sleep! Sometimes, he gets home early! Life happens. Life happens all the time, and since we can’t stop life from taking us on twists and turns, we need to just roll with it and write whenever we are given the chance. Even if at that time we don’t feel like writing, especially when you don’t feel like writing. We need to write when we don’t have any good ideas, and you need to just keep writing crap ideas trust that the good ideas will come.
Writing is a craft, and it’s a craft that has to be practiced a whole lot, like all other crafts. And I don’t think it’s always helpful to have a huge romantic ritual associated with writing. Well, no, so I suppose the ritual is fine, because plans are nice, but if those plans fall through, you should write anyway. Or working in anyway you can. I have a system, where I can always be doing some business no matter what the distraction level my house is at. When alone, I try to write fresh words, because often for me first drafts are the hardest, when one kid is home I’ll research, or work on a second or third (or eleventh) draft of a script, when both of my kids are home I’ll look up submission opps and try to get cover letters and all that busy work done, and when my husband and the kids are all home (which is usually my least productive), I try and curl up with books and plays and see how other people do it.
My point is, sure, have a plan, but have a back-up plan if the first one doesn’t happen. Also, have ten backups in case the first 9 don’t happen. There’s a lot of work involved with being a writer, and if you want to do it for $$$ you better start working a much around the clock as you can. So maybe don’t throw the rituals away, maybe alter them so that they enable you to work harder, work longer, and work smarter. Then write, write, write! And then, write some more.