A reporter in Iraq might just have the story of a lifetime when he meets Lyn Cassady, a guy who claims to be a former member, also known as a Jedi, of the U.S. Army’s New Earth Army, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions.
Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi” – This was the last words uttered by the reporter, played by Ewan McGregor in the 2009 film “Men Who Stare at Goats” as he used his mind powers to run through an office wall in the final scene. In the background, the 1976 rock hit “More Than a Feeling” by Boston can be heard as he disappeared into the gray barrier.
That single scene is the inspiration for my writing ritual.
Before the sun crests the Vancouver mountains and into Gibsons, BC, I brew a cup of Joe, fire up my laptop, throw on my headphones, cue the song and rock out like it is 1976. Sometimes I am the drummer. Sometimes I play air guitar and occasionally, when no one else is home, I am the lead singer.
If Ewan McGregor can break through his walls of reality, surely I can get over the initial grey matter hurdle of putting the first word, sentence or paragraph out and into my hard drive.
When it comes to writing rituals, I’m in good company. And, as it turns out, the stranger . . . the better.
For instance, Steven Pressfield recites Homer in his lucky boots and a lucky sweatshirt, with a lucky charm from a French gypsy, an acorn from the battlefield of Thermopylae, a cuff link, and a cannon placed on top of a thesaurus, “so it can fire inspiration into him.”
Armed with a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards, legal pads, a thesaurus and a bible, Maya Angelou would check herself into a hotel during the wee hours of the morning to write. Her only request: strip the room of any distracting art.
Hemmingway believed in standing up to write at his typewriter, and never past noon.
The beloved Charles Dickens was compelled to move desk ornaments around into a specific order before putting pen to paper.
“Creativity is a little like alchemy,” according to Carol Lloyd, author of “creating a life worth living.” “It’s equal parts fact and fiction, pragmatism and mysticism. What’s bizarre is that it’s through the most repetitive, simple, seemingly mindless action that the magic of creativity erupts.”
Writing is like forging a path through an area of Gibsons full of overgrowth, blackberry brambles and weeds. The first few trips are difficult as the brambles trip you, you stumble on broken sticks or get turned around thanks to a an inherited bad sense of direction. However, this shortcut becomes worn down, easier, one trip at a time until it is a winding track free of debris to your destination. The more it is used, the easier it is to be used.
The writing ritual is the shortcut writers use to fast track the path to our muse — and our writing. It helps focus our creative minds on the task at hand without getting lost in the brambles. Whether it is watching the sunrise while sipping Earl Gray tea with a touch of brown sugar or removing hotel wall art, you turn the mental writing “closed” sign to “open” and wait for your inner muse to punch the clock.
Writing rituals help with the process, but they make you want to write. I didn’t realize the power of music (ironically the meaning behind the Boston song) would have on my writing. Or how often I would feel compelled to write.
Experiment. Find your own shortcut. Get in touch with your inner muse.
When it comes to writing rituals, it’s “More than a Feeling.” But that’s a good place to start!