Creature of Habit

It’s a rare and special day today, as I’ve got the house to myself for most of the afternoon and evening. That means vast, uninterrupted acres of solitude and silence, which, let’s be honest, are two of the most wonderful words in the English language.

So naturally I am settling in for a long and productive spell of revisions. Not that I can just sit down and start banging away on the keyboard without further adieu, you understand. This sort of undertaking clearly requires a good twenty to thirty minutes of preparation.

Let me make myself perfectly clear.

I. Love. Ritual.

And since I make it a habit to write every day, I have naturally built up a healthy layer of ritual around my writing. Today, I thought I’d share a bit of it with you.

First, there’s the coffee.

Yes, I like my tea, but writing requires coffee, and lots of it.

I always drink coffee out of my Masterpiece Theatre mug, which I received when I donated to PBS in early 2007 as a symbol of my abject gratitude for giving us the 2006 Jane Eyre.

Ritual mug

Then, I light some little votive candles for the mantel. I don’t smoke anymore, so I tend not to have matches around. Fortunately, I do have a gas stove. So I usually take a stick of incense, light that from the stove, and then light my two little white votive candles with the incense.

Light the candles (with incense)

Then the incense gets placed carefully in its little holster, on the top shelf by the mantel:

Incense (and cardinal)

And it can’t be just any kind of incense, oh no no. It has to be the particular brand of sandalwood incense that they used to burn at the Zendo in Syracuse where I used to practice meditation. Ten years ago. More. Whatever. It has to be that kind.

This kind of incense

The candles, as I said, go on the mantel. One on either end, like an altar. This mantel also houses my old mineral and fossil collection from when I was a geology major at Mount Holyoke.


Need I mention that the candles, at the end of the night, always get extinguished from left to right, and never from right to left? Those of you who were once acolytes will understand why.

Bonus points if you were High Church Anglican, like me.

Then it’s time to locate my boy-cat, Satchel, and try to convince him to leave the sunny spot in his favorite chair and join me on the couch. Satchel is sometimes less than enthusiastic about this plan.

Satchel in the sun

The point, of course, is to get him to nestle up on my ankles as I sprawl across the couch with my laptop. Seriously, with two blankets, my own body heat, and the considerable heat thrown off by my laptop, I am thinking that I can compete pretty handily with any old sunny spot.

Laptop on lap

We’re almost ready now. Coffee, candles, incense, blankets, laptop, cat. What else?

Oh yes, of course. Pull the hair up into a tidy little writerly bun,

Writerly bun

…and then put my editorial assistant, Fairfax, in his customary place.

Fairfax on patrol

Fairfax is there to remind me to put in more of the good bits.

And I think we all know what Fairfax considers to be “the good bits.”

Fairfax sez...

I mean, honestly. My editorial assistant is a horny beast in a cravat.

I don’t think I need to explain myself any further.

1 Thought.

  1. I love it! Rituals make some things work SO much better. Especially when Fairfax (avec cravat) is involved. Best of luck to you with the writing!

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