Saturday, November 3, 2012

No sacrifices to volcanoes involved

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?

9 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

When I'm working at home. I generally use mornings to clear up blogging and email stuff, which is before my mind is really functioning. Once I'm fully awake I will start writing. Doing rough drafting, then coming back after a break for lunch and a nap to do the polishing.

William Doonan said...

That's a cool ritual! Lately, I start by ignoring my children, then checking the online electoral maps to see how close we are to the apocalypse. Then I do a little Facebooking, check e-mail, then I think about writing. After a brief nap, I do a little more Facebooking and determine to be more productive tomorrow.

KeVin K. said...

William, it's the days when I find myself falling into a ritual like that that I have to get out of the house. It's easier for me to stay off social media when I'm in public.

Charles, the problem I have with getting social media out of the way first thing is it's election season. I'm a political junkie, so I know I'll go down the rabbit hole if I click on any social media, because everyone is talking politics and I'm going to follow links and I'm going to comment. I do housekeeping after I've hit target wordcount for the day.

G. B. Miller said...

I don't know if you can call it a "routine", but lately what I do is before writing fresh material for my current project, I take out a three ring binder that has the story printed out to where I left off at, and write editing notes.

By the time I'm finished, my memory is refreshed (because I can only work on my stuff on the weekend, and by the time the weekend rolls around, I've forgotten where I am plot-wise with the story) and I can start the writing process again.

Steven Sylva-aRT said...

I need to write away from home at least part of the time everyday. Even though there's not that many distractions where I live, I'll go nuts writing in one space in my house all day everyday. Normally by late afternoon sometime I go to a cafe or fast food joint to do my work even if it's just over a diet cola for as little as a half hour.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I read the paper, drink coffee, answer emails, catch up on my online Scrabble games and generally tidy away any odd bits and pieces. By 11am I'm ready to open up the latest project and make a start. I'll then work through until about 6pm so I can spend the evening reading. Who says a writer's life isn't exciting?

Eugenia O'Neal said...

Hmm, William and I are clearly twins separated at birth! That's exactly what I do though I'm desperately trying to cure myself of this Facebook addiction.

KeVin K. said...

G.B., what your describing is a ritual of sorts, though it would be what I'd do after my coffee cup dance. I need the ritual before I can focus enough to read.

Graeme, exciting indeed.Few people have the constitution to survive a writer's life.

Eugenia, someone once said they used to dream of reading people's minds, then got a Facebook account and discovered they didn't need to. Now that the political storm is over it will be easier for me to stay away.

Liane Spicer said...

Triplets--William, Eugenia and yours truly. Can procrastination be a ritual? No?