Apparently Jane Austen played the piano before settling down to write and Charles Dickens wrote with a vase of fresh flowers on his desk. Indeed most writers I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to have some sort of daily ritual they undertake before settling down to the task of writing. I know I have. My particular brand of writer craziness involves a simple stage of procrastination and once I have read all my WhatsApp messages and straightened my braids for the fifteenth time, I finally sit down and write. A glass of water must be by my side (you know, because I’m trying to be healthy now) and there must be no sound around me. Of course, this routine flew out the window during my recent two and a half year trip to Atlanta where the noise around me in a glorious little Café was reminiscent of a club and a cup of peach green bubble tea sat obediently by my side. It was a ritual, nevertheless. Now back in England, I’m back on the water.
I was lucky enough to speak with five author chums about their writing rituals.
‘I light a rose scented candle, put on ski socks because I can’t write with cold feet and play whichever instrumental music/soundtrack that fits the mood of the book. I also ensure I have some water and some chewing gum to hand!’
‘I keep the proof copy of my book on my desk because sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that whatever problems you are trying to solve in your work are problems you have solved before…’
‘I like colour on my fingernails. I will paint them random colours simply because I feel it colours the story with more emotion and character. Something about seeing my nails fly across the keyboard with flashes of colour gives me a sense of power, almost as if I’m a superhero of sorts sent to save these characters from some crazed nemesis.’
‘I have to be wearing my lucky poncho, or it can be on my chair if the weather is warm. I then light a scented candle to match the season of the book. I then choose a selection of my beloved Northern Soul tracks to evoke the right mood and then I’m ready to write!’
‘My writing happens upstairs in my version of Narnia. It’s where I go and visit different lands and fabulous/ naughty/mysterious beings having adventures. My door has a sign on it which says, Away with the fairies . . . Back soon.’
Catherine has a theory of why writers undergo such rituals when undertaking their literary endeavours: ‘There are so many things about the process of writing that we can’t control. Publication can by a large extent, be governed by lucky meetings, random salvages from the slush-pile which is where my own first book was discovered, collisions of stories and moments which might have been quite different another day, another time. So many aspects of the process aren’t really in our hands so perhaps it’s natural to be a little superstitious about the ones that are…’
So, what are your writing rituals?