Rituals

Most creatives have rituals to get them started. Steven Pressfield blogs on the writng process. He writes fiction and creative fiction, but most of his advice applies to any creative endeavor. His latest, “Get Up! Begin Your Day!”, details his and Twyla Tharp’s morning rituals. Both start their day at the gym. A comment of his lets us know what he’s doing in the gym:

I am rehearsing doing something I don’t want to do.
I’m rehearsing doing something I’m afraid of.
I’m rehearsing doing something that hurts.

Steven Pressfield

They are rehearsing for “the moment when she arrives at her dance studio and faces the choreographer’s equivalent of the blank page.” Pressfield’s “War of Art” is a good read on the creative process.

I have my own writing rituals. I start every writing session in my journal with the date, time, and location. This once had a definite purpose: where and when does my good writing happen? The answer? Anytime and the patio outside our apartment. Austin weather makes the patio frequently unworkable. Next best is somewhere with coffee. Perhaps the ritual time and location detailing remains a way to say to myself, “Be Here, Now.”

Examining my rituals I find a more important one is carrying out the promise I made to my wife after chemo. Everyday I’ll tell you that you’re beautiful, I love you, make you coffee, and be silly. The last was the hardest at first. Many days I didn’t make it. Or my attempts were strained. Now, it probably happens most days and it’s not a big deal. Telling her she’s beautiful and I love her is the most important and happens everyday, sometimes several times just to make sure, but not always first thing in the morning.

What does happen every morning we are home is I get up and make coffee. This has been a struggle with: bad water (torrential rains washed 10 times the usual amount of silt into Austin’s water supply), bad coffee (every roaster seems to produce a bag of nasty coffee once in a while, Starbucks and Whole Foods house brand included as well as the local boutique roasters), headaches from something we don’t know about, and changing from drip coffee (Melitta cones then the Clever Coffee Dripper) to espresso (DeLonghi’s nice $140 home espresso machine). Reading coffee blogs suggests we might like a finer grind. Tried it this morning and it does produce more coffee flavor and body without bitterness. We refer to the coffee equipment as our “ritual utensils” and have developed the discipline to ready them every night.

I try to write every weekday. I’m several months behind. Looking at my calendar and what I do accomplish shows me my morning ritual is rehearsal for living, not just writing. My calendar is full of seeing doctors and dealing with aging and the side effects of the cancer treatment. That I must do to write. Or anything else.

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