Nests, Noise, & Vacuuming (or, Writing Rituals)

I wonder if one of these would help?

I recently ran across this article on writing rituals and found it really interesting. You should definitely go and have a look at it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back? So wow, some folks have some interesting writing rituals, huh? And although a lot of (non-writing) folks would consider some of these behaviours odd, weird, or outright bizarre, apparently they are a good thing. Rituals for writers, the article says, help reduce anxiety, increase our sense of control over the writing process, and increase fluency.

Which made me think–what are my writing rituals? (And if I don’t have any, should I get some?)

So I’m sitting here thinking. And thinking. Do I have any writing rituals?

Do I require a tidy desk? (OOh, ouch, I actually hurt myself laughing there.) Okay, maybe I require a messy desk? No, not really, I can write in either of those two states. However, sometimes before beginning a big, new project, I do give my desk a good cleaning. It’s cathartic, and it makes me feel better. I’m not sure it’s a ritual, though.

Do I perform any ritualistic motions or tasks before writing? Hmmmm. I make a lot of coffee…I do like to have a fresh cup of java to start a writing session. It’s not necessary, though. The need to vacuum the house? (More painful laughter ensues.) And no lucky shirts or socks. Or pens. Rats.

Special music? Well, I do enjoy music when I write, although I don’t always put it on. When I do, it has to be instrumental only, no lyrics because they’re too distracting. All my characters would be spouting lines from the latest top ten if I wasn’t careful. I particularly like video game soundtracks. Assassin’s Creed II. Halo. Skate. Command and Conquer. And movie and tv soundtracks. You get a nice mix of moods and themes. But as a ritual…no.

Sigh. I’m starting to doubt that I’m a real writer!

You know, I used to have a ritual. I used to play games before I started writing. Tetris. Mah-jongg. Solitaire. The problem was, I wouldn’t just play a game “to relax.” It might have started out that way. But then it changed. Suddenly I had to win a game before I could write. And you know what that meant–I’d hardly ever get to write, and spend all my time playing games. My brain tricked me that way for a while before I caught on (because, of course, playing games is so much easier than writing). Bad, lazy brain. I discarded that ritual, although it was difficult.

Okay, wait, I’ve got one. It’s small, but I think it really is a ritual. When I am starting a new project, I always set up the title page just as it will be when I’m submitting the final piece. For a short story, name and address in the top left corner. A line for “Approx. word count” although of course for now it will be blank. Space down to the middle of the page, center the title in all caps (fortunately I usually have a title by the time I start writing. If not, a placeholder will have to do, although it’s not as satisfying.) For a novel, a proper title page, too.

That’s it. That’s my ritual. Wow, so boring. Maybe there’s something I’m not even aware of…I know one thing–if I can’t think of something more interesting, I’ll have to invent one. Or risk being more anxious, less in control, and less fluent. There’s a lot at stake, here.

What about you? Do you have writing rituals? What are they?

Photo By MalcolmLidbury (aka Pinkpasty) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tales of Tales ~ Part 2

Today I’ve picked another story out of the table of contents for To Unimagined Shores to talk about a little.

“Little Things” is my first-ever published story. It appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s FANTASY magazine in 1997. It’s also the first story I wrote about what turned out to be a series character, a young mage’s apprentice named Albettra. The funny thing about this sale is that I vividly remember getting a postcard in the mail simply telling me that this story was “on hold” at MZBFM. At that time I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t a rejection, so I was ecstatic! I don’t actually remember getting the acceptance letter. The brain is a funny thing.

This was also the first story I’d submitted anywhere. Its sale made me think that this whole getting-published thing was not going to be so difficult after all. Ah, the golden optimism of the beginning writer!

“That ill-begotten son of a cantankerous sow has gone too far this time!” he bellowed, stalking the room with beard aquiver. “The man is a mountebank! A copper coin would be too much to pay for one of his spells! A lying charlatan, that’s what he is, and he dares to spread rumors about me!”

“Zipnax?” I hazarded the name in a small voice.

“Of course, Zipnax! Bah! The name makes my tongue shrivel to say it!” Nissio was flailing his arms wildly now, his robe fluttering madly and his beard flying in every direction.

I was cautiously working my way around to the other side of my worktable. I had never seen the old fellow so angry and I knew I’d feel a lot safer with something solid between us. When his erratic pacing took him near a wall he’d take an angry swing at it with a wizened fist. There couldn’t be much physical strength left in the man, but it didn’t take much to set the walls of the rattletrap cottage swaying. Dust was floating lazily down from the ceiling again and I stifled a sneeze.

“To accuse me of stealing!” the old mage was ranting now. “Imagine me, stealing one of his pitiful ideas!”

Bam! His fist hit a wall.*

The origins of Albettra herself and the idea for this story escape me now, they’re so far back in the mists of time. I do like Albettra, though, and I like the way she keeps turning up in my brain with a story idea in tow. She’s sometimes unsure of herself but feisty when she needs to be, and determined to win out in the end. I suppose, if I get all psychological about it, she’s a bit of a reflection of myself as a writer.

There are four Albettra stories in To Unimagined Shores. I’d like to know what you think of her as a character, if you happen to read them. You can do that in the comments section of this blog, on my Author Central page at, or over at Goodreads.

If you missed the earlier blog post, I’m currently running a contest to win a copy of To Unimagined Shores. Click the link to get all the details, and take a moment to enter. Or if you can’t wait, you can buy a print or ebook copy (in multiple formats) from,, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

*My more astute writerly colleagues will notice a fair bit of passive voice in this excerpt…probably in the whole story. It’s interesting to note that at the time this story was written/published, it was not considered such a stylistic anathema. It’s an example of the ongoing evolution of writing style that I find fascinating. Anyway, it didn’t feel right to me to re-edit previously published stories for this collection, so I left things like this alone.

Hunting Cthulhu

Another Famous Painting with an SF Title:

Hunting Cthulhu by Hokusai

As an observer will note, the hideous, gigantic, cosmic entity is nowhere to be seen in the actual painting, having disappeared below the whitecaps moments before, leaving the enormous wave in its wake.

One wonders what the intrepid hunters in the boats plan to do if they manage to catch the Great Old One. No doubt it will form the basis for a truly epic haiku.

(Of course it’s actually The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the famous woodblock printing by the Japanese artist Hokusai, created sometime between 1830 and 1833. But what else could be causing that wave that dwarfs Mount Fuji?)

Absurdist Shakespeare

Well, well. Isn’t this strangely appropriate? (Since I do my editing with a red pen and all?) Of course I plugged in the word “edits” since getting back to them after this brief break is on my mind…

William Shakespeare

Will all great Neptune’s oceans wash this blood
Clean from my edits? No, this my edits will rather
The multitudinous seas

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Click over yourself for some weekend fun!