The Writer as Friendly Curmudgeon – Building Fences Without Walling People Out

One of my favorite pictures of my mother, embodying all her effervescence and zest for life – letting her fringe fly. 

It’s apropos for me that week’s topic – which has to do with attempting to be both a writer and a socially acceptable person – falls on Mother’s Day. My mother is tremendously social person. She’s good at it, and she loves it. Me… well, I’ve always struggled a bit with feeling like I’m not as good at it, and it took me a really long time to understand that about myself. Come on over to the SFF Seven to read more

Climbing Back into Routine

I took this photo back on July 3. Apparently. I don’t remember taking it and was surprised to find it in my cache of photos to use.

But that seems about right – July was when everything seriously picked up speed. Although I note that I talked about my decimated writing schedule on June 19, alas. I was also in a heavy meme of Cute Kitten Pics for a while. There will be more of those to come!

Still, between work travel, conventions, graduation with family visits, I’ve been totally off my rhythm and ritual.

You all know how I am about my rituals.

~weeps for shattered rituals~

So, today, I’m climbing back on the wagon. Like a party girl after a six-week bender, I’m going clean and sober again. This means full rules of observing word count and writing time. Turning off the interwebs. Code One Writing Rules.

See, the rituals are there to create that sacred space to write. I’ve talked about this many times, such as here. For me, there’s a sense of building a wall around that sacred space. We all build those walls in different ways. For me it’s about a certain time on the clock, using Freedom to keep me from looking at the internet, playing particular music and enforcing word count goals. Once I’m in my rhythm, I can bend some of those rules, because I’m in the space. I don’t need to work so hard to create it.

But now, with my sacred writing space in rubble at my feet, I have to reimpose maximum measures. It’s like placing myself in solitary confinement until I can demonstrate better behavior. I know it will be painful at first and after that, the writing will flow again and I can take a few hours in the exercise yard.

On that note… see you on the flip side!

Dread, Procrastination and Bad Hair Days

You, my faithful blog-gobblers, know I’m all about the “write every day” thing.

I know. I’m militant. I stand by this.


I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the days when this doesn’t work out so well. Jami Gold wrote an interesting post today about giving yourself permission as a writer, on a number of levels. One of the things she touched on was the off-day and letting that go.

Everyone has off days.

You know what I mean. The Bad Hair Day. Those days that, for whatever reason, things just don’t flow right. If we weren’t committed to dealing with careers and families and things like keeping fed, we’d likely just crawl back into bed on those days and hide under the covers.

Few of us have that luxury though. We are committed to things that must get done every day, so we forge ahead, painful and unproductive as it may be.

That’s my point with the write every day thing.

For some reason, writing – maybe any creative endeavor, I don’t know – brings with it Dread and Procrastination. These evil twins perch on a writers shoulders and whisper of other things that need doing. Dread worries that the the plot line is muddied, that everyone will hate the book anyway, that maybe this is all a Terrible Mistake. Procrastination wonders what people are saying on Twitter, if any email has arrived and, oh, there are dishes in the sink! The twins have a common goal: to keep you from writing. I don’t know where they come from, but every writer seems to have some form of these nasty buggers.

The reason you sit down to write every day is to shake Dread and Procrastination from your shoulders.

Wherever they draw their power, it’s thwarted by habit. By ritual and sacred space. They fade away in the face of it until their little voices can’t be heard. That gives you the space to write. Whether that goes well is something else entirely.


But, I offer this. Those days when the words don’t flow and you stare at the screen? They totally count.

That’s writing, too.

If writing was only tippy-tapping words onto the page, then monkeys *could* do it. What we do is story-telling. We fit words to the story, yes, but that’s only one piece of an enormous subterranean process.

Hence the staring at the screen.

And the gazing off blindly into the distance.

The dreamthink.

So, I totally agree, Jami. Sit down to write every day, if only to shut up Dread and Procrastination, but I like your idea of Permission. What happens once you engage is all good.

No matter how your hair looks.

Ritual and Repetition

On yesterday’s post about making writing sacred, Marcella commented that she was working on this and that she thought ritual and repetition were key.

Oh yes, yes, yes.

If we’re going to continue to use religious practice as a model, that is absolutely the method used worldwide to create sacred space. I think it’s useful to look to religious and spiritual practices because, regardless of your personal beliefs, they are the ways people approach raising themselves up, trying to be the best they can be.

Almost all spiritual pursuits rely heavily on ritual and repetition. Muslims pray five times a day, facing Mecca. Hasidic Jews have prayers for every moment of the day and less conservative branches of Judaism still use repetition, such as the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, or simply observing Sabbath every Friday evening. Catholic Mass has followed the same ritual for over a thousand years. Protestants attend services at the same time every week, following the same pattern. Buddhists meditate in certain ways at certain times. Even the less structured practices like Taoism incorporate repetition with arts like Tai Chi.

What ritual and repetition do is set the stage for what we’d like to have occur. Both spirituality and creativity come from a part of us that must be coaxed out and given a safe place to bloom. Whether you think of this as shutting down the left brain so the right brain can be heard, or quieting the conscious mind so the subconscious can operate, really doesn’t matter. What you’re doing is creating the practice, so the rest will follow.

Interestingly, the Hasidic Jews hold that it’s not necessary to believe. The Hasidics say you must practice. If you practice, belief will eventually follow, because practice creates faith.

What does this mean for the writer?

Yeah, I know you don’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear it either.

That’s right: write every day. Write at the same time every day, if you can. Set your rituals and follow them, ahem, religiously.

Maybe you’re more Hasidic and take your many times a day to write, just a bit. Or more like a Muslim, with carefully orchestrated sessions throughout the day. Maybe you’re more Catholic, like me, and observe the practice in one long session every morning.

Regardless, if you want to create a sacred space for writing, this is the way to do it.

Believe me, I know how hard this is. I know most of our lives do not accommodate any kind of daily ritual, especially one that requires peace and silencing of all the tumult.

That’s where the sacrifice comes in. KAK said yesterday that she pictures me like a Valkyrie, destroying anything that threatens the sacred space. It’s a good analogy because I am that fierce about it. I think we have to be. If we aren’t, before you know it, the temple is full of merchants and money-lenders and there’s no room for anything else.

I always liked the line from Jesus Christ Superstar: “A temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”

If there are thieves in your temple, then yes, kick them all out.

Find your ritual and repeat as necessary.

Writing as Sacred Space

I got to talking with my writing buddy, Laura Bickle, last night. She’s gearing up for the release of Rogue Oracle, the second in her forensic Tarot series that she writes as Alayna Williams.

Dealing with the selling end of stuff is not so fun. Especially for those of us who were never really inclined to be marketers in the first place. Those occasional writers who also love to find more and better ways to get their books out there are blessed with a lucky combination of talents. However, most of the time, the personality and skill combination that makes us good at sitting by ourselves, dreaming up stories is not ideal for the high-octane racetrack of American supply and demand.

It’s a challenge.

As we discussed her plans, I made an offhand comment about at least keeping the writing time sacred. The word struck her, because she’d never thought of it that way before.

I tend to think more in terms of the sacred, perhaps because I was a religious studies major in college. The commonalities among religions across the world fascinated me and I searched out those those themes. The sacred is that which is consecrated, from the Latin sacrāre, to devote. It simply means “reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object.” Other definitions carry ideas about deities or the divine or the holy. But in its purest sense, the sacred is about devotion.

Not many of us starting writing for the money. We write first and foremost out of love. Love of the stories we’ve read, longing to tell stories of our own. If the writing itself isn’t kept sacred, it can get eroded by the clamor and tumult of the world.

It’s not easy, to keep the writing sacred.

It requires sacrifice, a word that comes from the same beginnings as sacred. We all know there’s no such thing as something for nothing. Sometimes keeping the writing space sacred means giving up a pleasure, like computer games. Or relinquishing the idea that we can be everything to everyone. Sacrifice is painful, by definition.

Sometimes I think of it as, to create the sacred space, I have to destroy what’s occupying that space. It might be something I really enjoy. An overriding idea through many spiritual practices is that greater sacrifices yield greater returns.

That’s what creates the sacred.