Miss Foley, you look out of sorts today. Whatever is the matter?
Well, thank you for your concern, Lady B, but I am irked at myself, if you really want to know.
Why is that?
(Heaving a sigh) Because I did not make my writing quota this week. You know, there isn’t nearly as much elegant lazing about in the author life as I had been led to expect by Hollywood movies. And…
Well, on top of that I think I have a touch of OCD. I mean really, sometimes, you just have to laugh at your own foibles.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Or a case of Writer’s Rituals.
Indeed, Albert. Sounds dreadful! What is this cursed affliction, you poor dear?
Well, I’m sure it manifests differently in every individual, and in some poor souls, it is very severe and debilitating. But for me, it seems to manifest as a complete inability to get any writing done unless there are Perfect Conditions.
SQUAWK! LAZINESS! SLACKER!
I beg your pardon!
Quiet, Albert. Can’t you see she is at the mercy of her Delicate Artistic Temperment?
Yes, exactly! That’s the ticket!
Now dear, don’t fret. Have a spot of tea and I’m sure we’ll get all this quite sorted out. What are these Perfect Conditions you must have in order to have a good writing day?
Oh, it’s a very exacting regimen, Lady B. It begins first thing in the morning. I wake up, take care of my dog (Bingley), kiss Prince Eric goodbye as he heads out for work, get my coffee and sit down at my writing desk with what should be a very easy, sane, achievable daily goal. 6 clean pages every day. More is fine, but that is my minimum to keep on track for my deadline. And I am mad at myself because I couldn’t even manage THAT this week. Harrumph. Frustrated with myself.
My dear, no one is perfect. Perhaps one of your Ideal Conditions was not met.
My deadline is not going to care about that.
What other conditions must be in place?
I’ll make you a list:
1. Must wear loose, comfortable clothes. You cannot lose yourself in the story world if your mind is distracted by a too-tight corset.
Ah, so one must be in deshabille.
Indeed. It’s the only way to write:
2. For a truly effective writing day, I must be actually writing new word-count when the clock strikes 8:00 A.M. [I get to my desk you see about 7:30. First I need a little time to do a read-back of what I was working on yesterday and review my notes that I made at the end of my previous day's writing session, to give me direction on where i need to go next. But I have to start writing the new material by 8:00 A.M. on the nose.] If it is 8:01 I start getting ancy. If it’s anything after 8:15, I am downright anxious. If it’s 9:00 A.M. before I’m writing, my day is as good as ruined. Thus, oversleeping would be a calamity.
Surely the rooster wakes you on time.
3. Well, not so much a rooster as my alarm clock. It’s an ingenious device you see that plays music at exactly the time you set it to start.
4. I have to wake up to pleasant, instrumental music only. No howling lyrics. Preferably classical. Bach or Rossini’s little Harp Concerto. Mozart and Haydn are also most welcome, and Vivaldi in a pinch. So far, so good. But if I forget to change the clock to CD and the radio comes blaring on first thing in the morning—or, horrors, if it’s a commercial–it’s hard to say what effect such a wakening might have on my Delicate Artistic Sensibilities.
SQUAWK! BOLLOCKS! CODSWALLOP! EXCUSES!
Albert, it’s not right to impugn a lady’s veracity.
5. There are many negative influences in the world that I cannot abide to encounter until I’ve got my creative work underway, such as the news with the latest dreary disaster in the world. Or if Prince Eric is in a grumpy mood. Or if I forgot to get the coffee ready the previous night, set to auto-brew, that can throw off my whole day. Like Mary Fisher (Meryl Streep in She-Devil), I must “think beautiful thoughts…”
Miss Foley, surely you are being facetious.
Well, maybe just a little–but still! It’s not fair. Some writers’ muses allow them to go skipping off to coffee shops and parks, but I have to shut myself up in my room in silence, and I cannot abide interruptions. That is why I had to stop working for 10 hours a day and cut my daily page count from 10-15 down to 6. A lot in life tends to fall apart if your head is in a book for 60+ hours a week. It’s not healthy!
No wonder all you writers are as mad as hatters.
Nonsense. I don’t trust anyone who’s not at least a little eccentric. (Another large sigh.) Oh, Lady B, if only I had a sliver of Lord Byron’s cleverness! I hear he dashed out his Childe Harold at nights over a 6 week period while consuming numerous bottles of wine–perfect on the first draft! Like Mozart!
What? (Leaning closer.) You know something?
You didn’t hear it from me, but you know, as much our lovely poet claimed to knock it out in one draft, revised manuscripts were found after his demise. He put out the rumor of getting it right the first time to enhance his public image. It made him seem like more of a genius, and of course, he didn’t want anyone knowing he actually cared about what he wrote.
He was that savvy a self-promoter in the early 19th century? He didn’t even have a Facebook page! Well, I am glad you told me so. Hearing he had to revise actually makes me feel much better. But–my, goodness…if the trick is to convince readers that you’re a carefree genius and writing is effortless, then I suppose should not be telling people all this about myself. Admitting that I sometimes don’t feel like writing at all, even after 2 million words in print. (Especially on weekends. Boo. HOO.)
It’s nice of you to invite us to your pity party, though.
Now get back to work!
Right. I suppose I must. Even if conditions aren’t perfect?
Deal with it, Ms. Foley.
SQUAWK! DEADLINE AHEAD! SAVE YOURSELF! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!
Thank you, Albert. You are a very wise bird. And thanks, Lady B. I needed that.
Well, Ballroomies (–roommates? –roomites? –roomarians?) I have unmasked myself as a great procrastinator. I think that’s why my “hemming and hawing” (as my Grandma would’ve said) over perfect conditions is just my way of getting going. But I have heard that writers–like baseball players!–a lot of times have odd rituals they are triggered to. Tolstoy (I think–might’ve been Dostoevsky) had to have his feet in warm water to write. At least I’m not that weird! LOL. It’s funny how the human brain works.
Am I just nuts or do you also have any little rituals you do to get yourself psyched up for a challenging task?