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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bewitched by Ritual has an article on the daily rituals that helps/helped 25 great thinkers do their work. Some of the thinkers and their rituals include the following:

American writer John Cheever wore his only suit of clothing each morning as he rode the elevator down to a basement room where he worked. Upon arriving there, he would undress to his underwear, hang up his suit, and get to work. He would dress to go back upstairs for lunch and again at the end of his day when he would ride the elevator back home.

Stephen King, the famed writer, keeps to a strict routine each day, starting the morning with a cup of tea or water and his vitamin. King sits down to work between 8:00 and 8:30 in the same seat with his papers arranged on his desk in the same way. He claims that starting off with such consistency provides a signal to his mind in preparation for his work.

Whether or not he had heard the adage about keeping the doctor away, the writer of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas, started each day eating an apple under the Arc de Triomphe.

Gertrude Stein discovered inspiration in her car. Apparently she would sit in her parked car and write poetry on scraps of paper.

Ernest Hemingway described his writing ritual as starting just as the sun began rising, then working straight through until whatever he had to say was said. He likens completing his morning of writing to making love to someone you love–being both empty and fulfilled at the same time. Upon completing that morning’s work, he would wait until the next morning to begin again, going over his ideas in his head and holding on to the anticipation of starting again the next day.

When John Grisham first began writing, he still had his day job as a lawyer. In order to do both, he stuck to a ritual of waking at 5:00 and shower, then head off to his office, just five minutes from home. He had to be sitting at his desk with a cup of coffee and a yellow legal pad by 5:30. He gave himself a goal of writing one page per day. Sometimes this page went as quickly as ten minutes while other days required one or two hours. After finishing his daily page of writing, Grisham would then turn his attention to his day job.


For me, ritual is highly desired but hardly realized. Working freelance means I have to check my email everyday to see what work needs to be done immediately and what can wait, before I can plan my writing time. And I have kids who get sick, need special attention suddenly, etc. So while I adore ritual, it mainly eludes me.

That's why it's important to take into account what Toni Morrison had to say (also from :

Writer Toni Morrison describes not only her daily routine, but the importance of rituals to writers. Morrison describes her own ritual involving making a cup of coffee and watching the light come into the day. Her habit of rising early was first formed as the mother to three children, but after her children left home, she discovered a routine of her own–that still includes early mornings. Morrison urges all writers to look at what time of day they are most productive and what type of surrounding is most conducive to their work to help form rituals that will promote creativity.

I know how to get into the writing space in my head, but it takes me about an hour to get there, so that's not very efficient, and given my lifestyle, not realistic. I need to pay more attention to what makes me productive other than the one way I already know, so that I can work without such an extended detaching time. That might mean finding a different time of day, or a different way to signal to my brain that it's time to write. Hmmmm...So much to think about from all these great thinkers. Click on the link at the top of the post to see what other thinkers' rituals are/were.

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