Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Writing Rituals--Magic Schmagic by Amelia June

What do you keep in your magic bag? (source)

My day job is firmly rooted in the non-profit world. As a result, I've done my job in some crazy places. I've done it in a minivan, in a trailer, out of a desk drawer, even in a bunk bed (this... is making my job sound naughty. It isn't). What I've learned from doing this job is that you don't need much to get good work done. You don't need fancy chairs, or even an office, or even a building, to make magic happen with people.

I used to think I could apply the same concept to writing. I'm flexible, able to write just about anywhere. I don't need a particular set up, or a special writing program, or even a good luck charm. I'm one of those writers who can do it in the road. A country witch, maybe, not one who needs all the tools and trappings of magic to make her spells pop.

Right? Maybe not. When I look at my habits, I realize that I do have a set of rituals. They don't involve lighting incense or special incantations, but I do have them. 

I might not need a special writing program, but I do need certain special things to look at my text with joy. Curly quotes. 1.15 spacing (1.15 what, I have no idea). Page breaks between chapters. Spell check. I'm heavily reliant on spell check. My magician’s notebook is Word, although there are a myriad of others to choose from.

Sometime in late September, the air begins to change. The evenings get cool enough to go outside. The light softens from "interrogation room sun" to "normal sun." The days grow short, and when I can smell fall in the air I suddenly want to write. NaNo is underway. Writing in the summer seems... off. I do it, but it isn't the same. The air itself turns magical right around now in my corner of the world.

Halloween night, unlike most parents who are wrangling sugar-charged children, I'm mainlining coffee and planning a place to go to do that first NaNo sprint. I've done the midnight dash every year. The first year, I did it with a nursing infant in my arms. Those words are charged with magic, the very first words of a new story. Opening bell word count is a big part of my NaNo ritual.

I have a Pandora channel and a Slacker channel that play only movie soundtracks, because I can't write with people talking to me. I also can't write to music I know, because I'll sing along and lose my flow. I've gotten so accustomed to writing along to Danny Elfman and John Williams that when I hear the scores in movies I get the itch to write. Harry Potter in particular stirs me up, with a side order of Nightmare Before Christmas. The strong themes and emotional ups and downs cast a little magic into my stories.

The greatest ritual though, the one that has the most magic inside, is the write-in. I have many dear friends I've made through NaNoWriMo. We’re a little tribe of writer buddies who understand the process and how strange it can be. They get it when someone gets up and acts out a scene, or when someone starts cursing at a character. They can answer just about any question I have on just about any topic. When I'm in the company of other writers, sprints blossom into paragraphs. Stuck plot lines become hotly debated rather than isolating and scary. Coffee carafes are put on heads. Pie is eaten. Magic is made. Without them, I might never have finished my first NaNo, let alone five.

So, I suppose I do rely on my own rituals for the writing process. This month, I'm turning on the Elfman, turning on the coffee pot, buying a pie and getting down to business. I may also do a few chants and even light incense for luck. Anyone want to sprint?

What's your set of writing rituals? Any nit-picky things you can't explain?


Amelia June is just another writer, writing. You can find her on her site or @ameliajune.


  1. Great post! I really loved your writing style, I was so there with you-- even though this is a blog post. :) Love the magic-hat analogy!

    I don't think I really have a writing ritual. I sit with my laptop, use WriteWay Pro, drink some coffee, and write! Generally in the mornings because I work at night. Wish I had some cool tricks up my sleeve!

  2. Actually, I deliberately avoid having a writing ritual. I have a superstition that if I try to write somplace other than my "writing spot", or don't have the hat, or the plastic Doberman, that I will somehow be paralyzed and unable to write.

    I do,however, play Snood. If I've typed a few paragraphs and am taking a mental pause to formulate, I'll play a game or two of Snood, and then go back to writing. I've also used pinball and mahjong for this purpose.

  3. Awwww!!!! I love you! And you are my writing ritual. If I'm stuck, I sometimes ask me WWRJD? And our write-ins keep me sane. I wish we were doing more cos I'm going a lil' bonkers without them. Thank you for letting me be a part of your tribe.

  4. I used to be a Snood addict! Now it is all about the Fruit Ninja. Fruit Ninja is like crack.

  5. I think coffee is the secret potion of authors everywhere.

  6. I feel the same way. Or at least, I did when putting cute kittens on the chopping block. Can't do something Bella will never forgive!