The Writer’s Ritual

Hey, all, Gerry Boyle here. And I’m here today to tell you that that I couldn’t have written a single line, a single chapter, a single book without one thing.

Red Rose tea.

Red Rose has been the key ingredient in my writing process since word one. I buy it by the case. I have drawers of the little porcelain figurines that come in each box. I don’t recall a single writing session that has taken place without a mug of tea beside the legal pad, computer, laptop. The tea comes first. Then the writing can begin.

I can’t prove that the tea itself—the caffeine, the leaves from India and Ceylon—is fueling the writing process. But I know that it’s a required part of the ritual that accompanies the writing process.

Put the kettle on. Make a pot of tea. Bring the pot up to the study and close the door. Open the chapter, the page, the notes. Stare for a minute. Think a bit more. Take the first sip.

We have our writing rituals, the preparations that are carefully undertaken before the actual act of creation begins. I suppose it’s a way of separating the world of the book from the rest of life. Or a way of getting mentally ready for the writing part, which is very different from the the other things writers do. Maybe there are some writers who can dash off a great paragraph on a napkin, or write a chapter in the office between meetings. I’ve never been one of those writers.

I need a warm up, a ritual, like a baseball player eating the same pre-game meal, a musician meditating before going on stage. I don’t need to mediate; I do need my mug of Red Rose tea.

When I finished my last book I’d had knee surgery after an accident. I was stuck on the first floor of the house, unable to get to the study for weeks. I sat in a chair in a downstairs room, my reconstructed leg stretched out in front of me. A machine pumped ice water around my knee. I pumped Red Rose tea into the rest of me. I could probably write in a hotel room, but I’d need room service to bring me my Red Rose tea.

I’m on the road this week but I hope to get some writing done. My bag is packed –with a box of Red Rose tea.

So if you’re a writer, what are your rituals? Superstitions? Have you read of other writers’ rituals? What are some of the things that we do that make writing possible?

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8 Responses to The Writer’s Ritual

  1. MCWriTers says:

    Thinking that I need some new rituals in my writing life. I am sitting in the chair and getting very little done.

    In the past, one thing that I have done that I really liked was choosing some particular pieces of music that either suited my character or underscored or enhanced the mood of the scene(s) I was working on. And for all my writing, I sometimes need to an endless playing of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. That very first opening growl seems to put me right into Joe Burgess’s head.


    • Gerry Boyle says:

      Ah, music. Interesting selections, Kate. I normally write in silence but I did once write some very gritty dialogue with “Gimme Shelter” blaring over and over and over. Have to refrain from picking up the guitar and plugging in the amp!

  2. Tea for me, too, Gerry! And, starting this time of year, a fire in the woodstove, located about 3 feet from my desk. Come afternoon — air-popped popcorn when the hunger pangs hit.

  3. Funny. I’d say I don’t have any rituals. Except the one thing that works is just to start typing. So I guess the act of typing is my ritual. If I just sit there and despair that I don’t know what comes next in the story, it won’t happen. If I type, “I don’t know what happens next,” something always comes to me.

  4. Lea Wait says:

    Red Rose tea for me, too, Gerry! (Although I do do give the figurines to my grandkids.) And sometimes in the afternoons I sneak some E&J Brandy into the tea .. or even go wild and substitute cocoa. But those are only on cold, crazy, days.

  5. thelma straw says:

    This was a delightful essay. I don’t think my local store carries Red Rose – but by durn I’m going to look this very afternoon!! As for other ideas, I have to have silence – no music. Sometimes I put on a recording of animal sounds or swamp noises or birds, etc. But my method is – first, clean up the desk, etc. Must be neat! THEN I can mess it up as I pull out all my notes and little carefully-stored pieces of research, including snippets and pictures from the papers. I used to drink a hot cup of Lapsang Souchong – but nowadays I’ve graduated to real coffee! The caffeine really does push the little grey cells! Thelma Straw in Manhattan, a devoted reader of this blog…

  6. John Clark says:

    Sometimes music is a must. I wrote an entire book that was inspired by Medwyn Goodall’s Dolphin Quest and every time I listen to particular tracks from that CD I ‘see’ parts of that book.
    Another ritual is my ‘unstuck places.’ When I was writing my first Wizard book, I’d get completely stuck at certain points. It seemed that driving by Edgcomb Pottery would make the solution appear in my head almost every time. Now that I live in Hartland with a 3 block commute, that doesn’t work, but I discovered that standing by the kitchen window, idly scanning our back yard while waiting for my morning coffee to brew, works almost as often. In fact I was washing dishes on Thanksgiving day and got the perfect answer for what my protagonist needed to do when he couldn’t find wood that would make an adequate bow.

  7. I have to have music in the background and my husband to not bother me when I’m on a roll, ha ha!

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