The other day I went to Port City Java to write. Yes, I do have a home office, with bookshelves covering one wall and a comfortable chair. But sometimes I go to Port City Java to write. On days when I think there's a real danger I'll take a nap, for example. Or days when sitting alone in an empty house typing gets on my nerves.
The PCJ on Racine has several small tables, a couple of sitting areas separated by a big sheet of glass with water running down it I think is supposed to be a fountain, and one long, narrow table that seats twelve for study groups from nearby UNCW (or any other groups for that matter). One end of this table butts up against the wall, and my spot for writing is the last seat, right against the wall, facing toward the windows (which I can't really see because of that sheet-of-glass-with-water thing). I don't really want to look out the windows, I face them to keep the glare off my screen. If someone else is in 'my' spot, I'll take up station on the same side of the long table but two seats over.
Before I get my coffee I set up my camp. Power cord in outlet; backup flash drive plugged into USB slot; big honking studio can headphones jacked in; wireless mouse turned on; notes, reference materials, pad with pen laid out; baseball cap on keyboard.
Then I get my coffee. Twelve ounces of the lightest brew they have in a house ceramic mug with two packs of raw sugar.
Back in my chair I fire up the laptop; confirm I turned the mouse on (I hate the touch pad); put on my cap with the brim pulled low so all I can see are my screen and keyboard; settle my really too large but they were a gift from my son headphones over my ears; launch Pandora; and consider what I'm going to write.
I can write without the mouse. I can write without the headphones, though with my ADD it's hard to filter out conversations around me. I can write without the baseball cap, though it's even harder to ignore the world when I can see it. I can certainly write without the coffee, which usually goes cold at my elbow. I can even write when I've forgotten my reference materials, using AAAAA and BBBBB as placeholders for names or factoids I'm not sure of. Without the power cord I can write for two hours and fifteen minutes. Heck, I can even write without the computer – wrote with pen and paper for years before I could afford one (all the baristas are students, I can always borrow a pen and paper). And I know I look like a fussy old man puttering around getting everything just so before I sit down. So why do it?
Because all that nerdy flutter is my tea ceremony, my centering ritual to focus my mind and settle myself so that I can write. The word ritual can conjure images of chanting monks, or priestesses carving the air with silver knives, or cups of blood, or ancient figures muttering over smoldering herbs and bubbling cauldrons. (No, wait; that last one's me cooking.) But the truth is many of us have little rituals; things we do as part of dealing with the world around us or the world inside our heads. Most of us never notice our rituals; but we do feel 'off' or annoyed when they're missing.
I write 20-30% more words per hour at Port City Java when I've performed the camping ritual. Annoying as I may be to everyone else in the coffee shop, I'm not going to stop anytime soon.
What about you? Do you have any rituals – any patterns of behavior you find yourself repeating before settling down to work?