During the fall The Divining Wand — in a series of six post recently honored by Suzannah Freeman of Write It Sideways — presented our authors’ best writing exercises. Tried and true, these exercises were designed to jumpstart both imagination and motivation, yet what about the intangible elements that set minds free while wrapping writers into their comfort zone?
To discover the answer our authors were asked:
Do you have any unusual writing rituals, secrets or superstitions that always work when all else fails?
The first in (hopefully) another insightful and helpful series begins with the following responses, including those new to TDW — ever popular Caroline Leavitt and debut novelist Camille Noe Pagan:
“Going for a walk almost always helps me get an idea or solve a problem. I like to tell myself the story as I walk as I would a friend or potential reader. That’s one of the things that is challenging about book-length work: keeping it all in your head. Yes, I use sticky notes and notebooks and cork boards, but still going over the story over and over and over again is necessary for me. And something about being outside and moving really helps.”
“After decades of procrastinating, I wrote my first book in my minivan, which taught me that if you want it enough, you can write anywhere and under any circumstances. So I refuse to believe in rituals. I take a page from Nike’s book — and just do it.”
“A clean office! I write so much better when my office is organized, dusted and tidy. I literally feel my creativity faltering when things are askew, so I tend to take a few minutes, before sitting down to write, to fix my piles (there are so many piles!), toss things in the recycle bin, etc. Also, I love natural light, so I like to keep my office window shade open. And, must have a big, tall glass of cold water! This trio works for me. ”
“Yep. Magic thinking. I tell myself if I don’t do my four hours, something really bad will happen. Like demonic possession. That always works.”
“When I’m stuck, I tell myself I’ll just write 250 words–even 250 horrible, nonsensical words. It seems more doable than, say, 1000. And nine times out of ten, it gets my creative wheels turning and I’m able to figure out a tricky scene or keep writing until I have several pages down.”
“I write my novels at Starbucks – okay, I said it. There.
“I am a mess when I try to write at home.
“’I’m writing,’” I say to myself at home, which means I should be writing, but instead I’m looking for inspiration in the refrigerator, in the cabinets, in the stubborn wrinkles in my daughter’s dresses. I’ll iron before I write at home. I’ll ponder the vacuum. I’ll think Bach or Yo-Yo Ma will solve this distractedness. Then a cup of tea. Yes, nice green tea. Tea cookies? Do spiders get hungry for something sweeter than gnats or flies? Maybe I should Google that. Maybe I should Google the oil spill in the Gulf and watch the robots trying to patch together the future miles beneath the surface of the sea. Maybe it’s all utterly hopeless and I should just take a nap and hope I dream about ice cream cones and spun sugar.
It’s all so daunting. So I go to Starbucks and, miraculously, the words start flowing…”
“If a scene or chapter is really resisting me, I resort to an all-nighter. I make coffee and tell myself I can go to sleep only when I’ve finished.”