Writing Rituals

There is no place like home

I don’t have any specific requirements or rituals to observe in order to write.  I don’t require total silence to write. I have actually written entire sections of my book sitting in hotel lobbies, on boats, and trains.  It doesn’t bother me if the MP3 player is blasting Van Morrison or Handel's Messiah, or even if the television is droning on.  I can write in the morning, in the mid afternoon, but since I live a dual life, most of my writing occurs at night.  I don’t need to eat or drink, or do the Mamba, make the sign of the cross, offer my first-born, or even light a candle and chant OMs to my Yogi, to write.  As far as writing rituals go, I am virtually ritual-less.  I confess to preferring a keyboard, spell check, and access to the internet for spontaneous fact checking, but I can write anywhere on anything, EXCEPT, when I am home for the holidays.  

Breathe deeply I told myself as my mother opened the door. My pulse raced. My blood ricocheted off the inner walls of my veins.  The heart I slave to preserve at the gym is showing classic symptoms of Arrhythmia. The minute my barely five foot mother opens the front door I start twitching.  In one hand, she is holding a serving spoon piled high with some new concoction she has made in anticipation of our arrival, while in the other hand she holds a Waterford highball glass filled with Johnny Walker Black Label. She welcomes us by giving us her cheek and says, "Try this, I just made it," before thrusting the spoon towards my mouth. I hear the familiar sound of music pulsating through the Bose speakers and elevated volume of television in the den as I walk through the front door.  There is a second TV competing for the same air space coming from somewhere down the hall.  

Mom is alone since Dad journeyed north to read poetry to the angels.  You wouldn’t know that given the deafening volumes of the electronics.   Mom is fond of three things, Johnny Walker, noise, and cooking.  Sometimes Johnny is second to cooking, but not by much.  Of course, my mother is going to threaten to sue me—as she normally does when I make fun of her in my posts—as soon as she reads this. She looks upon our visits as a reason to try out new recipes and turn the volume on her gadgets to ear piercing levels.  Thus, I spent all of last week eating my meals from a spoon, sampling her inventions and wearing cotton plugs in my ears.  By Thanksgiving, I was rotund and considered consulting a specialist about a gastric bypass and a hearing aid.   Nearly mad (as in crazy, borderline insane, fragile even) from not writing and having to lie flat on the bed to zip up my jeans, I contemplate purchasing polyester pants with an elastic waistband to accommodate my new shape-round, and checking into Motel 6.

Now fat, and nearly bonkers from not writing, I still have to deal with my sister’s mangy mutts that look better in a photo than up close and personal.  Yorkie terriers are all about focusing your attention on them.  They will stop at nothing—even defacing your personal property or nipping at your toes—to obtain it.  Where you sit, they sit.  If you don’t look at them, they will sit on you.  If this doesn’t work, the mutts will walk up and down your body—assumes you are in seated position or asleep— followed by wet pooch licks, chomping on your hair, biting your toes and ear lobes. If physical abuse does not procure the attention they desperately need they resort to petty theft.  They go after personal objects, such as underwear, bras, MAC make up brushes, a computer mouse, the pair of reading glasses on your nose.   The mangy mutts are not discriminating.  They figure if they have something of yours in their teeth and run around the house a light speed you’re going to chase them.  They’ve won.  No writing is possible under this sort of duress. 

While I don’t have rituals, I do need to write (maybe that is my ritual, the actual act of writing). When I don’t, my head clogs with the words desperate to get out.  It feels a lot like a sinus headache.  In my desperation to relieve the pressure in my head and lift the weight off my chest, I resorted to hiding in bathroom.  My laptop and I fit snugly in the empty bathtub. I managed to write an entire page before the dogs found me.  Right behind them was my mother with a slice of Banana Bread and her amber filled glass.  Later, my sister walked in and sat on the toilet seat to chat. In her defense, she came bearing gifts, a glass of hearty Merlot and a box of Ex-Lax. She suggested I consider writing a fam-moir.  The jeans I sweated bullets to slip over my Latin thighs are choking off the air to my brain and the third glass of earthy Merlot she is holding in her hand looked more like Nirvana and less like another 120 calories. It went down without effort.  As for the dogs….. well, one day I will have them stuffed or maybe offer them up to a hawk.  (For sure my sister is going to sue me now).

Do you have any rituals and/or what stops you from getting he words out?

32 thoughts on “Writing Rituals

  1. —Your brilliance never ceases, Brenda.

    I can visulize everything for you write w/ amazing colour & wit….

    I was there with you, & dammit, those little mutts were biting my toes!

    Xx Kiss & Hugzzzzzzz.from MN>

  2. monicastangledweb

    OMG, Brenda, this is hilarious and your mother sounds like a hoot. I especially love this line: "Nearly mad (as in crazy, borderline insane, fragile even) from not writing and having to lie flat on the bed to zip up my jeans, I contemplate purchasing polyester pants with an elastic waistband to accommodate my new shape-round, and checking into Motel 6." So visual. As for me, I, too, can write pretty much anywhere, and I enjoy listening to music when I do. Best time to write, though, is in the wee hours of the night. Don't know why, but it's when I'm most creative.

    • Hi Monica – I would have replied sooner, but the mother and the dog–named Gigi–called to tell me they are getting lawyers, again. I mean really, if you can't write about family, what else is there… I write mostly at night, but I seem to stop around 11, but the mind sometimes won't shut off, thus there are many mornings I wake with dark circles. So glad you enjoyed.

  3. savirag

    Your sense of humor is brilliant! I have no rituals as I like change… it stirs things up.. come think of it maybe that is why I have a hard time writing or spilling my guts out!

    • Savirag, glad you enjoyed. Mom is promising to torture me when I am home for Christmas. Yes, writing is something that requires a fierce dedication.

  4. June O'Hara

    Sampling concoctions, wearing cotton earplugs and hiding in the bathtub, courting the use of Ex-Lax. I laughed through the whole post. You are a truly funny person! As for writing, I'm not nearly as flexible as you. Blogging has helped with that, though. It forces me to write under different conditions sometimes. But when life goes my way, I write in the morning, in silence, surrounded by my favorite notebooks and pens. I'm a little freakish that way. Thanks for another great post!

    • Coming for you Miss June, that is a compliment. I do enjoy laughing, as for being funny, hmm. My humor is often too dry for most Americans (yes, I am one) but after living in the UK for a years, I changed. As you know, I am always looking for a laugh. Thanks for always coming by and encouraging me.. you're a star.

  5. Brenda,
    Your house sounds an awful lot like mine over the holidays. Glasses are never empty…and if you open your mouth to speak a fork is shoved in it. I felt I'd really accomplished something when I got away with gaining only a few pounds. Yikes! I'm glad you survived and were able to write this fun post. Oh…I know what you mean about those damn Yorkie terriers. I had one when I was a kid. Felt like I'd grown another limb the way that little dog attached itself. We used to call him Eagle Bait.

    • Me, too, Annie, on the few pounds, but it's really unfair since I did try to walk everyday, but the gourmets were out in force and cooked up a storm. Still, I wouldn't trade the week for anything, well except my own room.

  6. Jodi Aman

    My ritual is to take any minute I have free and put my butt to the chair. I cannot have everything perfect or I would never do it. But I love it quiet in the morning before anyone is up. This is when I get the most done.

  7. I can write anywhere, anytime, anyhow, including: in church, during the opera, while having one of those existential conversations about money, perched on a crumbling curb that smells like a latrine (not kidding!), in a meditation tent while 300 others are deep in meditation, in a public bathroom, while drinking too much bad wine and listening to too much wailing and whining from a country and western radio station (not a fan of either), while trying on shoes or brassieres, while talking to my mother on the telephone, on a plane flying low over the jungles of Guatemala while trying not to drop my pencil down the hole in the floor (not kidding!), and so on (sounds a bit like The Cat in the Hat, doesn't it?). The one thing I cannot do anywhere, anytime, anyhow is write well!

    • I don't know, Cathy, your comments make me weak in the knees, I think you write well anywhere, even flying low over Guatemala. I don't think I could focus in a tent of 300, given I caved in my mom's house with the dogs nipping at my toes. I think there is a poem in this response – and yes, Cat in the Hat-esque, but it has it's own voice and strength.

  8. HAHAHA! Hilarious! I have GOT to hook your mom up with my mom. My mom would not touch her Johnny Walker as long as your mom does not touch her chardonnay (I know, it's sad, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). The opera would be blasting and the spoons would be spinning, and I'd be apoplectic as my mom shows everyone her new lingerie purchases. Heaven help those ladies with their rituals.
    I can only hope for more pattern and ritual in my writing. My best ideas come in the shower, on my runs or in the car – how to not forget them (as my 48-year old brain so often does!)???
    Great post…
    Still odd that I got this post and your post from May 2011 in the same day :)

    • I have no idea, Astra, why you received the other post. Technology continues to baffle me. That aside, families are such fun, yes? I do think our moms would get along fine, so long as they don't mix their libations. I am curious about the lingerie purchases, sounds like a story in the making. Oh the writer's plight, regularity, magic, and wonderful prose. I used to try and follow a pattern, now I just write whenever I can. I do write everyday, but not always at the same time. For me this works. Phew!

  9. Hi Brenda, thank you for sharing this hillarious piece. Whilst it was hillarious to me, I realise it wasn't to you! What is it that keeps us returning for more of the same each year? The thing that interrups my writing is stress. I was all set to write an article today and then discovered a huge bubble (as in major water damage) in the roof of my family room – the room were the kids are going to stay when they come for Christmas. My landlady is not quick at fixing things and my one son will notice this and question in before he even has his coat off! I was so stressed I couldn't write, in fact I was as exhausted as if I'd done a days hard labour.

    • Oh my Elizabeth, I am so sorry. I can relate the heaviness of stress, it has a way of choking our free spirits. And for the record, it's always fun with my family, but as you know with families there is always a little drama.

  10. leahsinger

    Isn't it funny how some places really spark writing and creativity, while others just zap it from you? Ironically I always feel emotionally drained and cannot think about writing at my parent's house. This is ironic because when I'm not there, they are the constant ideas I have for my novel.

    • Very true, Leah. Clearly, my family is inspiration, but being inside the house with all the other crazies can hinder the ole juices. I do manage a couple of pages, but it's not easy.

  11. Brenda, you know they make those Pajama Jeans now 😉
    You cracked me up when you talked about the mutts! Those crazy demons in dog’s clothing. I have a neighbor with a tiny Chihuahua that licks you in the face and demands your attention and won’t give in until he gets it. His name is Bruiser, and he looks like the one on Legally Blonde. Would that not drive you crazy? So I don’t go over at all anymore.
    I suggest you sublimate. Instead of stuffing the dogs or offering them as hawk sacrifices, you could do exactly what you did here and give your readers a moment of laughter. Weeeee! What fun I had tonight at your writing house!

    • Debra-I would consider the jeans, but I have starved myself since leaving the mom's house (well, I have eaten a lot of veggies). The dogs, the darn dogs. Cute and oh so loveable, but…. pains in arse.

  12. Writing in the bathtub sounds fun, Brenda. =) My ritual includes the utmost important Turning-the-Computer-and-TV-Off routine. Putting music on is nice. Sometimes it's The Wallflowers, Aimee Mann, Sarah Maclachlan, Dixie Chicks, or piano pieces.

    • Mamawolf-you can probably relate to sandwiching in our creative passions in between all the other noise. I thought the bathroom would be safe, but … they found me. It was a damn circus.

  13. Hi, Brenda! —

    Funny holiday ' fam-moir' ;-p

    I don't enjoy writing and no 'ritual' is likely to change that. I do enjoy communicating and I love reading, both mine and others work, which makes writing sort of a necessary evil …

    My ritual is to incubate the idea in my mind until the deadline is virtually upon me and then force myself to go through the laborious process of 'birthing' my masterpiece just in time, so as not to get in trouble. I guess it kind of works — haha!

    • Linda-You know, there isn't a genre that fits me perfectly, so I made one up. I remember reading in one of your older posts how you wait until the last minute to post or write for deadline. I bet you're not the same way with your photos? Silly me, of course you're not. I find writer's habits fascinating.

  14. Brenda, this was wonderful! I was right there with you, and can picture your mom with a glass in one hand and a fork in another. Personalities run big in your family I think! Including the dogs! I have never written in the bathroom but I do hide out in the bathroom often. Just to sit and think. I am most creative in the morning, but generally I can write anytime. Not anywhere though. Couldn't write a lick the whole time I was up with MY family in Oregon. I was too busy holding all my opinions, emotions and reactions inside, and that took a lot of energy. Thanks for the great post!

    • Michael Ann- I live that visual, holding in options and emotions, perfect. I do that all the time. Damn exhausting, isn't it? I am glad you came home in one piece. I had to catch a plane when I got home and have been running on empty ever since.

  15. Brenda, seriously, I think you and I are related. Your mother and sister sound almost identical to my mother and sister! hee hee! Yet, I get so much inspiration from their crazy shenanigans, as I’m sure you do too. I enjoyed reading this post, especially the part about the tiny Yorkies, bless their heart. I could see them nipping at your feet! And the Merlot? Gosh I was drinking it alongside of you, in that bathroom! Loved the imagery and the humorous vein in this piece. :)

    • Bella-I have long suspected we have a Latin genetic connection. We're different but we share stories and passions too many to list. I also suspect if we met in person we would sit down and talk as if we had known one another our entire lives. My sister's yorkies need a busman's holiday with the Dog Whisperer, Roxy is Queen of grace compared to my sisters mangy mutts (that she spoils rotten). Glad you enjoyed.

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