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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The 3 R's: Rituals. Routine. Repetition.

Rituals. We all have them. Every day after lunch, I have a Reese's cup. I eat the outside first, savoring the chocolate, then eat the middle with the peanut butter. Every morning, I walk downstairs, turn on the coffee maker and open my laptop before my kids wake. My seven-year-old stumbles down soon after in his sleepiness, and says, "Mommy, can I have my chocolate milk?" Every morning.

When my newly-adopted dog, Ellie, sees me put my shoes on and grab my keys, she starts jumping and runs toward my car when I open the door. This winter, my brother-in-law, Mike, and I had an entire conversation on which foot we put the first sock and shoe on and how we walk through our homes at bedtime and check the doors and windows in the exact same order every night.

Rituals. Routines. Repetition. They help life flow. They provide consistency. They define us. Comfort us. Help us through the day with their normalcy and mindlessness.

With writing, routine and rituals force us forward. We sit in the same place that we always sit. We drink coffee from the same mug. We check our email, Facebook, and Twitter in the same order. Then, with external distractions purged, we begin. And the words flow. The monotonous routine frees our minds to the words waiting to be expressed.

When the daily junk haunts us. Taunts us. We procrastinate and find ourselves unable to focus on writing. It's a mental desk-clearing. We need to reassure ourselves that there's nothing that must be tended to before we can breathe and open the Pandora's box. Because once it's opened, there is nothing else. It becomes a singular focus and consumes us. Characters speak to us. Demand to be heard and brought to life. All day, every day, as we shower, drive down the road, and tuck our children into bed, the stories swirl in our minds. Precluding peace until we release them.

Today, I had someone tell me she'd read "In Search of Solomon's Wisdom" (thanks again, Laura Khan! It always humbles me when people read my words). She said such kind words about it and complimented me. I shared with her that it's involuntary. Once a writer's mind opens to the story waiting to be told, it becomes a compulsion. As necessary as breathing.

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