I’m a man of rituals. The less kind might say I’m a man of rigid, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, but I prefer to think of myself as an old-school guy who enjoys the ritual of things.
Take drinking. Sure, ultimately people drink for the effects: the derangement of the senses, the relaxation, the shedding of inhibitions. On a secondary level, I drink because I enjoy it—the taste, the texture, the smell. And on another level entirely, it’s the ritual: The opening of a bottle, the setting of a glass, the pouring of a finger or two of something really nice. Ordering in a bar—the entire bar ecosystem, in fact, with its code words and sub-rituals like the buy-back or the heavy pour.
Imploring the Gods
It’s the same with writing, for me. I’m one of them there “digital nomads” who can work anywhere; have Chromebook, will travel. Except of course I hate to travel and prefer to stay in my house like some sort of crab monster, scuttling about. My house is where I keep my liquor, after all.
But when it comes to writing, I have my rituals, and I love them. When I worked on a manual typewriter, I used to thrill at the act of sliding a page onto the drum and then hitting the space bar four times to indent a new paragraph—it was something I did several times every day, and it always brought a sense of excitement. These days the typewriter is stored away, sadly, but an echo of the ritual remains when I open a document and search for “xxxx,” my placeholder for where I left off, or when I set up a new document with a header: Somers | Title (word count): Page.
On the flip side, sometimes breaking the ritual is just as exciting. Sometimes rituals are traps, and you get caught up in doing things the same way all the time, so suddenly doing everything differently can be freeing and exciting. It feels wrong in a wonderful way for a while, stirring up the sediment of your thoughts, making things float up that would have remained lost otherwise.
I just enjoy the ritual of it. Sitting at that certain spot, using those particular tools (a blue ink pen of specific brand, a college-ruled notebook, the aforementioned Chromebook). It’s part of the pleasure of creation.
Now, when you mix the writing ritual with the drinking ritual, that’s when things get really interesting. Usually in an unfortunate way that requires emailed apologies and dry-cleaning.