Writing Rituals

I have a confession to make. It is impossible for me to get any writing done in my office. There are distractions everywhere. Even with the door closed, I can see movement in the hallway. It breaks my concentration. I sit and stare more than I type. The phone rings. The temperature isn't right. Students want to chat. Colleagues pop by. Emails ping. Papers beg to be filed away. There can be no quick trips to the cafeteria to caffeinate because people I haven't seen in months seem to come out of the woodwork on writing days.

And so on writing days, I am most productive when I am home. I have a writing ritual. It developed during my PhD and has served me well. Sure, some say you should write everyday and perhaps that does work for some people. But for me, the blitz marathon writing session works. I'm in a hyper-focussed state. I'm productive. I get it done.

Writing for me is best done at a dining room table. I attribute this to the fact that as a kid, I sat at the dining room table with my sister and mother (a teacher) while we all did our "homework." At the same table, my father (an entrepreneur) balanced the books or prepared estimates related to his construction business. That's where I developed study habits and learned to focus on the task at hand. During my undergraduate degree, I installed myself at an aunt's dining room table when writing papers. She totally got it. And I admit to being a little lost in my master's degree when there was no dining room table at which to work (I lived in residence). Large tables in libraries served as substitutes.

The space is helpful. I spread out my materials around my laptop and still have room for a notepad to write ideas and reminders.

I also have a particular coffee that I drink when writing: Illy. It's delicious, but expensive. It's saved only for special occasions — like writing. I make a pot and a promise: I will begin writing before I start the second cup. It hasn't failed me yet.

And then I transform into a marathoner, writing for hours on end. I write from the outline in my head or notes scrawled on paper, and then revise and expand. I always print a copy when editing because I can more clearly see how to re-order arguments, sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

It's my writing process and it works for me, but I can't really recommend it to others. Writing is a personal thing.

So, if you don't see me around tomorrow, it's because I'm installed at my dining room table, drinking Illy coffee, free from the distractions of my everyday life.

Janice