Writing Rituals


I must be a masochist because I’ve developed a set of rituals associated with writing that seem pretty painful, if not superfluous and unnecessarily exhausting. I think there’s probably an element of sacrifice inherent in the process of accessing the ideas– the creative energy– the ever-pulsing energy of the immortal human spirit, the divine.
But it’s not animals or virgins we sacrifice to create, anymore, I hope. It’s sleep. And rationality. And healthy eating habits. And human interaction. And hygiene. And general sanity. And the smooth, flowing ink of our favorite pens and highlighters. And post-it notes. So many post-it notes. At least these are some of the things that I sacrifice when I write.
Oh, and my living environment becomes a kind of battlefield strewn with the carnage of words. Weak drafts abandoned and left to die on the frighteningly unvacuumed floor. Books with broken spines lie in patient, vigilant waiting– atop piles of dirty laundry. Critical essays with their maddeningly over-highlighted and re-underlined passages are congregated in groups, their ranks organized by some chaotic system that I devised at 3:00 am. A couple stray crumbs of an emergency pizza’s crust have lodged themselves in my keyboard. Empty cans of energy drinks fall over; they topple and clank on the desk when I reach to grab a post-it note containing a fragment of my next paragraph.
I wonder sometimes how I’ve managed to create a ritualized hell. At the 19th hour of seemingly endless thought-flurries I often think “I’m in hell”. I try closing my eyes but abstracts and abstractions are swimming round my brain. I’ve developed vertigo after that last section of close-reading. I’m dizzy with analysis. My ears are ringing with setup phrases and transition words:
“… argues that…”
“With this in mind,”
“It is postulated that…”
“On the one hand…”
“… furthermore…”
“According to…”
“Although this may be true,”
“In other words,”
“… nevertheless…”
My eyelids are heavy and I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. But I’m tip-tapping at my laptop. I’ve sacrificed enough to the Gods of academia and they are delivering their message to me, through me. I’ve emptied myself out to become their vessel. Just in time for my conclusion.
I can push on for this last glorious section, the end is in sight. The power is coursing. A lucid summary, elegantly reiterating the points that I think (I hope) I’ve made ever so clear. Offering possibilities for further study. Inventing things with the last dregs of my imagination. Still a few hours left, only a few more words to go. No time for editing, no looking back at this point. Keep pushing. “And thus…”
“… indeed …”
It’s done. I’m done. Press print. Staple it. Start on the journey to turn it in.
And here… it… comes…
The cathartic RUSH: something has been created. I have created something. The deadline has been met and obliterated, that monster. The elation of freedom, of victory. And despite its madness, I think I’ll probably do it again. I don’t want to do it again but I’ll probably do it again. It wasn’t that bad.