Magical Words Party Talk 2


Hey folks, it’s one of those open days again, so time for the MW writers to answer short questions you, the readers, have posed.  Are you ready?  Today’s question is:

What is your most unusual writing ritual?”

James R Tuck

I have no “ritual”. I’ve been a professional tattoo artist for 18 years now so I am used to working with people watching, things happening, and distractions all over. I can work in any situation. In fact, my first book, Blood And Bullets, was written in my station between tattoos!
 Last year my eldest (the Daughter) went off to college so I now have an office. I get most of my work done there and it’s my place to be serious about the writing. Decorated with my inspiring stuff (mostly rosaries, monster toys, Frazetta prints, and pictures of guns) it is a place to really focus on making words. It also has NO INTERNET which is the biggest thing that boosts my wordcount in there. I write at night a lot, but that’s because I am nocturnal and just function better from 8pm til 3am.
For some reason now I cannot write to music. The first two books and first two novellas in the Deacon Chalk series were written to the blues, but it’s been almost a year since I’ve been able to write with a soundtrack. If it’s muzak in a coffee shop, or the stereo at the tattoo shop then fine, but in my office it’s a no go. It has to be physically far away from me or it just makes my head jangle.
I’m like Bruce Lee, I use the “form of no form” when it comes to writing. No ritual. No candles, no spooky music, no virgin sacrifice on the word altar. Just me and a keyboard.

Mindy Klasky
I don’t know that my ritual is all that *unusual* (especially not among serious writers), but I absolutely, positively MUST have tea as I write.  Perhaps the way I feed my habit is a bit odd:  I place a single tea bag in a one-quart Thermos container, and I fill the container with hot water.  The resulting brew is perfect for me (I don’t take sugar or cream in my tea), but it would probably be too weak for Brits or serious tea aficionados.  I drink one pot of caffeinated tea in the morning, and another pot of non-caffeinated tea (either herbal or a “stripped” black, green, or white tea) in the afternoon.  
Once, a doctor queried me on how many cups of caffeine I drink in a day, and I told her that I didn’t know.  I described my quirks, and said, “I don’t know what you call that.”  She replied, “I call that disgusting.”  But she smiled.  And she wrote down one cup of tea on my medical records 🙂
Misty Massey
I can’t sit down to write unless the day’s household chores have been done.  Not every chore that can possibly need doing, of course.  I’m just not that much of a neat freak.  But if  it’s a day I’m making dinner, I have to get that started before I can settle down and work, or if there’s laundry that needs washing, I have to at least start the process.  If I don’t, my mind will refuse to focus on anything but the chore.  But once the chore is completed, I feel a certain peace that allows me to let go of the regular world and dive into my imaginary one. 
Diana Pharaoh Francis
I don’t have any really odd or unusual writing rituals. I usually grab tea and dig into the writing, with forays into twitter, email, blogs, and so on. I think my only oddish ritual, if you want to call it a ritual, has to do with petrified wood. One of my friends who is very spiritual and mystical, has told me what various stones do in terms of energy. I have a deep affinity for crystals and stones. I love them. I keep them everywhere. I would love to learn to be a rock hound or go find fossils. But I digress. At one point I was telling her I was having a hard time sorting out stories. She knows how much I love petrified wood. I collect it as I find it. She said petrified wood is a stone of stories and that I should hold it in my hand and think of my story and let the words flow. I have on particular piece that fits well into my hand, almost like a worry stone. Anyhow, now, whenever I’m running into story troubles, I pick it up and hold it. Does it work? Who knows. But I do it.
Carrie Ryan
I think perhaps my oddest writing ritual is that if I hit the early afternoon without having gotten much writing/revising work done then I’ll turn on Freedom (link:  It’s a program that disables access to the internet for however long you want it to (the only way around it is to reboot your computer).  Which doesn’t sound so odd, but the unusual aspect of this ritual is that I always set the timer for 37 minutes.  Any shorter and I don’t sink into the story and any longer and I get antsy.  At the end of 37 minutes I’ve found that I’m so entrenched in the work that I’ll just keep resetting the program over and over until the end of the day!
David B Coe

I am a very boring writer, which is not to say that what I write is boring, but rather how I write is boring. Really. That’s what I meant. So, I don’t have a lot of writing rituals, except that I write every day of the work week, and I stick to a fairly strict word count regimin. With CITY OF SHADES, I wrote 2,500 words a day, five days a week, for two and a half months. And mainly, during those days, I just write, with occasional breaks to check email or get up and walk around the office. As I said: boring.
But when I finish a manuscript and send it off to my editor, the first thing I always do is clean my office. Which, I suppose, is kind of weird. While I’m writing, I let a few things slide, and one of them is the state of my work space. I throw papers and books on the floor, figuring that I will take care of them when the book is done. And so as soon as I finish, I straighten up, I shelve the books I’ve been using as references and sort through the bills, receipts, and documents I’ve let pile up on the floor. So that the next day I not only get to start fresh with a new project, and I also get to do so in a neat office.

John Hartness
My most unusual ritual probably isn’t that unusual at all, but I do develop soundtracks for books and will go so far as to adjust a playlist for the scenes that I’m writing. I find that Rob Zombie is excellent fight scene music, and the Decembrists, Avett Brothers and other chill Americana music goes a long way into getting me out of my own way and letting me get some words on screen. I usually blare it out of the computer speakers, but if there’s a lot going on in the room (or scene), I’ll slap on my noise-cancelling headphones to focus a little better. If you’ve read my first novel, The Chosen, there’s a whole ton of music references in that book, and a list of what I was listening to while writing the book in the Notes at the end. 


I’m also very prone to writing with no pants on, but who isn’t?  🙂

Faith Hunter

I know this party post  wasn’t supposed to be silly, but I am nearing a deadline. I have a book due on May 1, and … the ending eludes me. The one in the outline – well – it didn’t work.  It isn’t working. I have too many threads and none of them are intense or immediate enough.  None of them matter. And because I am in book 6 I’ve used all the most urgent emotional triggers / drives already in the series. Kidnapping, murder, threats to loved ones, blah blah blah, are already used. 
I feel incipient panic crawling through me.
I have my tea made. My house was cleaned last week and is still okay. My sheets are in the wash. In other words all the day-to-day stressors are taken care of. Now I just have to write.
So, I have my tray of rocks and crystals on my desk, my Panic Button sent by a fan, (when I punch the button, it screams, “RUN!” at me) and my farting dog for comic relief.
Seriously. The farting dog is the most help.
Back to writing.

8 comments to Magical Words Party Talk 2

  • Those are really cool ways. I like to write in motion why I love that I ride the train to work. It helps to belt out my chapters. And I love writing by an open window (or blinds pulled since its cold). I just love knowing that nature is there giving me its energy, rooting me on. Its calming.

  • I have to reread what I wrote last. It takes me about 20 minutes of dithering, poking at words to get back into the headspace for writing so that I can move forward and write new material. My other writing ritual used to be that I had to get out of the house and go to a coffee shop. I know this cues the New Yorker cartoon about pretentious wannabes who want to be seen writing more than they want to write, but I really couldn’t write in my house because I’d fall asleep on the couch or eat or do chores and I couldn’t write in my office at school because people would constantly interrupt me. But then my favorite place changed – the music got louder, people started hanging out there more and I couldn’t concentrate. After hopping from Starbucks to Starbucks I gave up. They clearly are now catering to the “get in, get out, be fun and loud” crowd, not the “sit for four hours and buy multiple cups of tea” crowd. So now I write in my office at school and put earphones in my ears. For some reason the sight of me furiously pounding a keyboard doesn’t warn people off, but the sight of me apparently listening to music over a keyboard does. Whatever works.

  • Ohhhh, I am seriously going to try Freedom. Thanks for that link, Carrie.

    I have to have my headphones on to be productive. Whether or not music is playing, though I’ve been trying Profound Meditations (.com) and that has been interesting, too. Re: the headphones, they’re big bulky ones that send that GO AWAY I’M WRITING message that Sarah speaks of. Before, I tried to write in a coffee shop without them and it was frustrating. Everyone wanted to talk. Especially about five years ago, back when laptops were less prevalent.

  • No rituals here. Just strong black coffee and a few minutes to call my own!

  • I don’t really have any rituals. Well, I do tend to play with a mini-Slinky when I’m stuck and stop to think, but I do that even when I’m not writing so I don’t think it counts.

  • Vyton

    Interesting post. And it’s surprising that there aren’t a lot of rituals — particularly for so many writers working in fantasy and SF. No spells, no incantations. I don’t have any either. Thank you.

  • The rituals for my last book were a soundtrack and constant tweaking from the last third of the book on.

    My most recent book, I haven’t figured out what my rituals are yet. When I figure out what they are, the writing will fly though!

    All the writers here don’t have a lot of weird ones, but it makes me feel better about my little ones.

  • Not very different from the ritual of getting ready for a mundane job, if you think about it. Even if your job is digging ditches… one fellow picks up the shovel and hefts it a few times, another flexes his muscles, a third spits and kicks the dirt before digging in, a fourth just grabs the shovel and has at it.

    I don’t have a ritual; I either have the words going or I don’t. Once I’m going, tho, I like to have music, which probably serves to fill up the mental cracks that my thoughts might otherwise fall into. What kind of music? Industrial and aggrotech. I find these relaxing. 😀