Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Exit Rituals

Sharon Wildwind

We could start with A (aloe vera hand cream) and work to Z (Zentangle). No doubt, for each letter, there would be a writers’ rituals someone uses to cross into the zone, to make our transitions from not writing to writing. I’m a little uncertain about X, but perhaps some writer, somewhere, plays her xylophone before starting.

On the comfort/solace scale these rituals range from mildly comforting to approaching obsessive-compulsive. It took me a long time to believe that I could write a scene’s first draft any way other than in a black-cover HJ Permanent Sketch Book, using a Schaefer fountain pen with black ink.

What about the other end of the process, going from writing to not writing?

Does this sound familiar?

Standing at my computer, I keyboard furiously, gulp last swallows of cold tea, and calculate how many minutes late I can be for the next thing on my schedule. I type the final period, hit Save, grab my car keys and purse, and run out the door on my way to a meeting, grocery shopping, or chauffeuring a family member. Poof, instant transformation from writer to non writer. 

We're not doing ourselves or our writing a favor by ignoring exit rituals. Even Superman takes time to duck into a phone booth and change clothes before reappearing as Clark Kent.

What would happen if we allowed five to ten minutes at the end of writing to gradually bring ourselves back, starting by sitting or standing in silence with our eyes closed, breathing slowly in and out?

What else could we do in five to ten minutes?

A few stretches? A yoga pose or two? A couple of tai-chi movements? Even just tensing and relaxing all of our muscles from feet to head would be a benefit, especially if combined the physical activity with gratitude for what we’ve had the privilege of enjoying: the time, energy, and resources to write.

I imagine folding my writing, as if it were a clean piece of laundry, smoothing out wrinkles, and then putting it away in a mental cupboard or drawer, where I know it will remain undisturbed until I come back to it.

Perhaps a final tidying? Put our pens and pencils in their holder. Wipe dust and finger marks from our computer screen and mouse. Wash our tea cup.

Instead of filling our head with our upcoming meeting agenda, our grocery list, or did we remember to pay the phone bill, wouldn’t it be a lot nicer, a lot more respectful of our writing gift to end this exit transition by skipping ahead, previewing if we will, the next time we will return to write. All we need to end our transition is a simple promise to ourselves.

I’ll be back.
Quote for the week
Don’t expect to simply put your hands on the tools and be in the creative zone. Have a sacred space in your studio. Start each work session with a few minutes of meditation. Dance, exercise, physically flow into the work.
~ Flora Bowley, Artist, Author, Educator


Sheila Connolly said...

Excellent concept. I think we as writers (and almost anyone else) would benefit from taking a short time now and then to "clear our head." To sit still and sweep out all the annoying bits and pieces that keep tripping us up. To go to a mental "quiet place" and just breathe. Don't be surprised if you have to work at it, because it takes practice.

Anonymous said...

I still think we're missing something as adults by not having a nap, milk, and cookies in the afternoon.