Ritual Fix

Not to jinx myself, but I’ve been on a very good run lately with the book I’m writing. Unusually good actually, which naturally got me wondering, “Why?” The run began, really, on a Sunday, which is unusual enough. I don’t write fiction on the weekends, only weekday mornings. The Friday before that Sunday had not been a particularly good session, and as sometimes happens that bad taste stayed in my mouth all Friday afternoon and evening and all Saturday. I had been writing on chapter three on Friday but the problem, I concluded in my continuing grumpiness, was in chapter one. We all know how this goes. You set a course at the beginning and sometimes it takes another thirty or forty or fifty pages to see just how bad a course it was. Sometimes it takes that long to see just where you’re going. In my case, my course wasn’t all wrong, only partly wrong—but that was enough to leave a bad taste.

So I broke with tradition and, having awakened before the family on Sunday, decided to change what I felt needed changing. This was somewhat inspired by something Jonathan Evison had shared with me. Jon is a firm believer in going back and fixing what needs fixing before plowing ahead. I’ve always felt the opposite—that you should just keep chugging and you can go back when you’re done.

I followed Jon’s advice, fixed what was in chapter one, which did indeed make the difference in chapter three. I don’t, however, believe that the smooth writing that has followed has much to do with the changes I made. It helped, for sure, but (for me at least) it’s as easy to get off track in the middle of a story as at the beginning. I think it had more to do with writing on Sunday.

I’m a little superstitious, I admit. I write in more or less exactly the same thing every day, with only slight changes for the season. I write at the same time, in the same place, with the same Author coffee mug at my side. But for this day everything was different, and the story was there for me just the same. Silly, I know, but I felt something shift within me that had nothing to do with story arcs.

Rituals are fine, and I returned to mine the very next day, but no ritual is of value if followed out of fear. Out of fear, the time of day, the outfit, or the coffee mug becomes a reminder of your belief in vulnerability, of your tenuous grip on an elusive narrative snake. The snake, as I saw, was actually a river, and I knew just where it was, and I could find it anytime I listened.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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