Saturday, March 5, 2016

Woolf, Anzaldúa and Writing Rituals


I'm not a scheduled writer. I don't write at the same time everyday. Actually, I don't write everyday. Okay, well I write something (i.e. notes for class, does that count?) everyday, but I don't work on my fiction project everyday. I've never been good at writing rituals, but I've always wondered if I having a little ritual might help me produce more work and write more often.

Let's look at the pros of having a ritual, shall we?
  • By completing your writing ritual you prepare yourself mentally and narrow your focus to your work
  • It signals to other people around you that you're on do-not-distract-me writing time
  • It makes you look like a cool, real writer 
Let's look at the cons now...
  • By not being able to complete your writing ritual, you can't get any writing done
  • It can become more of a show of being a writer than actually writing, especially if you announce it on your social media constantly (I swear that this is not a passive aggressive statement, honest!)
Okay, that was not a very comprehensive pro/con list, but it highlights the main issue that I want to point out. A writing ritual can be a great way to focus yourself, but that same way of focusing yourself can be extremely crippling. What happens when you can't make that cup of coffee or have perfect silence? You don't, maybe you tell yourself that you can't write. Its greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness (how typical). 

This issue came to a head in my brain when I was watching House Hunters International instead of reading for class. One of the guys looking for a house kept turning down properties because they weren't "inspiring" or they weren't "quiet enough" or there wasn't enough "green space". He said that he couldn't finish his novel in houses like that. To which I responded (in my head of course): If you can afford to be picky, go ahead be picky; you're dropping half a million dollars, you may as well like the house. But don't delude yourself into thinking that it's impossible to write in places that don't fit within your ideal writing ritual. 

Virginia Woolf famously said: 
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

And as writers sometimes we get trapped into the idea that we must have a "room," or should I say a writing ritual, to produce work.

But I think Gloria Anzaldúa says it better: 
"Forget the room of one’s own - write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus or the welfare line, on the job or during meals, between sleeping or waking. I write while sitting on the john. No long stretches at the typewriter unless you’re wealthy or have a patron - you may not even own a typewriter. While you wash the floor or clothes listen to the words chanting in your body. When you’re depressed, angry, hurt, when compassion and love possess you. When you cannot help but write.
"

Let's get back to the origin question of writing rituals. Am I going to develop a writing ritual? I don't know. Although I seem to be making an argument against them, they're not inherently bad. They can do some good work in terms of focusing. I really am still unsure of where I stand on this issue, but in the meantime I'm going to get back to writing.

I'm really curious about any rituals you might have. Do you find writing rituals helpful? The worst? Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Reading: Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling
Watching: Suits (That season 5 finale!)
Listening: Mumford and Sons

22 comments:

  1. Well, I always have to be sitting cross-legged in my chair with a normal shirt and my pajama pants (not my pajama shirt too. It makes my pajama pants feel less confortable.) I have to have a nice cup of tea and like to be alone since I tend to read what I'm writing out loud as write it. Despite that this is my normal writing ritual, I don't necessarily have to be like this (it's just optimal, I guess). So I guess yes and no to writing rituals?

    Great post! Really interesting topic.

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    1. I love the pajama combination. That made me laugh:P
      I never even though about being alone, but I'd have to say that I definetly have that as part of my writing ritual.

      Glad to see you enjoyed the post!

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  2. I don't think I really have a writing ritual. Sure, I suppose a lot of it includes procrastinating and blogging when I really should be writing, but I also read when I should be blogging or write when I should be reading.

    Or, you know, go on a Doctor Who marathon and hope everything somehow does itself.

    That's interesting, though. I've never thought about how a writing ritual could both help and hinder your attempts at writing.

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    1. Haha, your ritual and mine sound VERY similar! I'm always doing the "wrong" productive thing and procrastinating.

      Happy to see that this post was interesting:) Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I don't really have a ritual, I just write, but I do believe they can be a crutch if you absolutely cannot write if you don't do said ritual.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. That's really good to hear! It's good to see writers who don't let themselves create crutches.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I definitely don't have a writing ritual. I have certain times of days where write better, but even then, I don't always write then. With the way my days an out, I really just have to grab the minutes wherever they are. Writing rituals are interesting things, but personally I think they would end up holding you back as you would literally not be able to get into the writing zone without doing them, wasting precious time. And what if, for some reason, you couldn't do your ritual? I'm always very wary of dependence on rituals to get going. The focus they can give you is definitely a good thing, but being so reliant on a set of behaviours definitely outweighs the benefits for me.

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    1. I definitely find that I write better in the evening, but like you I just try to write when I can. I tend to agree with you and am equally suspicious of wasting time with rituals.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. I'm not big on rituals... I mean, yeah, if I spend too much time focused on rituals then I seriously don't get anything done and that is really hard and sad for me. :( It's easier for me to have a routine, rather than a ritual, and just work on stuff regularly without getting too concerned about the hoopla of it all.

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    1. Ah! Great point about rituals vs. routines. That's such a great way to look at it. I definetly think that I need to develop some better routines. Thanks for sharing your insight!

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  6. Your blog is so adorable ohmygosh. Maybe I've missed some giant credits somewhere, but may I ask who designed it? It's flawless.

    Anyway, I get what you mean. I don't tend to stick to a schedule when it comes to blogging or writing in general, because I just feel like that's too much pressure on me lmao. I do however have a vague idea of when to post or write, and I'll stay around that general area. For example, I have a note on my calendar that I was supposed to blog like two days ago, but as long as I do so before like the 20th March, I think I'll be okay.

    Amy;
    Little Moon Elephant

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    1. Thank you for your kind words! I designed this blog myself.

      I tend to have a similar approach. I don't have a hard and fast schedule, but I do have goals. Sometimes they don't happen, but I do my best!

      Thanks for visiting SOI!

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    2. NO WAY. Dude you did such a good job omg. And I get that completely ahaha.

      No problem c:

      Amy;
      Little Moon Elephant

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  7. There's this quotation I really like: "Write even when the world is chaotic. You don't need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes, and a writing implement." ~Cory Doctorow

    I have to remind myself of this when I crave a) silence or b) more time!

    However, I absolutely love the Woolf quotation, although I take it to mean less a specific room and more a personal space for creativity. In school this year I've studied The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and the MC, Offred, is a state-sanctioned concubine who initially rejects the room in the house in which she's been placed. She then embraces it: "My room, then. There must be some space, finally, I claim as my own." That's the room, which is her space, her "freedom from being seen" (she's watched the rest of the time), but it's also the NOVEL ITSELF, which is also a space for reflection/introspective/herstory. Which I think is PRETTY FREAKING COOL.

    So my room is my novel and my novel is my room, and as I sit in said room writing said novel I repeat to myself: "A woman must have a room of her own if she is to write fiction" and feel empowered and creative.

    And yeah.

    (Can you tell I am quite impassioned?)

    Great post, Sunny!

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    1. Great comment! I love people who feel empassioned about this type of thing:)

      I've read The Handmaid's Tale as well and I never thought of her room like that. Taking it step further, I would say that the writing she finds in the closet of her room is also a form of empowerment.

      Thanks for giving your insight!

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    2. Oh really? I feel a bit silly now with my little synopsis XD

      Riiight! I was writing an essay on that very topic today. Nolite empowers her because it reminds her she isn't alone; the previous Offred is on her side: "It pleases me to think I'm communing with her, this unknown woman." Moreover the fact that it's in Latin makes it empowering because even though the language has been dead for millennia, it's still communicating even today, showing that the power of language is far greater than even Gilead. Which the Woolf reference also shows; Offred may be trapped, but she still has the vast canon of English literature behind her, which is why she has uses lots of puns and literary palimpsests throughout the book.

      Can you tell I love this book!?!

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    3. Don't feel silly at all! I read it last year, so the refresher was nice!

      Atwood is certainly a gifted writer. Those are some smart observation about the use of Latin. I never thought about it that way:)

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    4. I have one more thing to say, which is that I nominated you for the Infinity Dreams Award! :)
      http://sparrowsflysouth.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/infinity-dreams-vlog-dragonish-reveal.html

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  8. I totally get this and it makes sense! There are definite disadvantages to having rituals...but I confess: I HAVE TONS OF THEM. I've tried to cut some of them down? But I honestly don't write very well and I get very miserable. So if it's miserable writing vs good writing, then I know what I'm going to pick, even if I do have to be a bit finicky/picky about it.
    (Although some of the "rituals" can easily lead to procrastination! So I have to be cautious about that. ;D)

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    1. If rituals work for you, then you should pursue them! It sounds like you're on the write track:)

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  9. Great post! I've never really thought much about writing rituals. I am one of seven kids, so it's rather hard for me to form any sort of routine at all. I write when I can for as long as I am able before I have to run clean up spilled milk or cook dinner XP and that last quote is beautiful and so true and made me smile <3
    I really liked this post! I'm excited to hang around and here more from you!

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    1. Awww, thanks for your kind words. You sound like a super sister! Props to you for finding time to write in that busy lifestyle.

      Thanks for visiting SOI! I'm always happy to see new faces around here:)

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