October 20, 2010

Talismans and Rituals

What I’m Reading Today: Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall. I just love Michael’s work! As I’m reading, if I come across a passage that rings me like a bell, that I want to remember and refer back to, I dog-ear the page ~ with Michael’s work , I keep having the urge to dog-ear.  His sentences are singularities of experience.

Like pro athletes, writers are often a superstitious lot. It’s probably in the nature of trying to coax a muse, whether that muse represents athletic or creative abilities.

Athletes and writers alike tend to have superstitions and talismans. Rabbits’ feet or quotes above their desks or in their lockers or photos or always using the same bat or pen or a ritual right before writing or the big game.

I have quotes above my desks. I have Jessamyn West: “Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” I have some poems from the Writers’ Almanac, including "Margaret Fuller Slack" by Edgar Lee Masters, "My Husband Discovers Poetry" by Diane Lockward, and "To a Frustrated Poet" by R.J. Ellmann, as well as "Grace" by Maxine Cumin. I have a couple of editing-related comics ~ being rent asunder by a split infinitive and not getting anything done till we invented verbs. At my home office, I have photos of Hemingway and Virginia Woolf above my desk.

But I try not to have talismans as far as the actual writing. I don’t have one particular pen or paper or anything like that. Oh, I am a connoisseur of them - the creamy pages of a blank notebook are a siren song! But I try to switch it up. I write a lot on the computer, but I also like to go to my favorite restaurant (a Mexican place) and write in a notebook. I find it’ll unstick me. And I try to write everywhere, at home at the kitchen table and in the office and in bed, at work during my lunch hour, out at a café, or in the library.

More about how I write tomorrow.

Questions of the Day: What talismans do you keep around for your writing? What do you surround yourself with?

1 comment:

Court said...

When I am writing analog (which I find to be most effective for first drafts) I use special notebooks from Japan which supposedly have 1000-year paper. I don't know why, I just like the feel of them, and now that I've filled up 27 of them, it feels weird to write on anything else. Downside is I have to occasionally beg a friend in Tokyo to send me another shipment!