What makes this little clock tock. How do I do it?
Even more fundamental: What is it that I do? What are the mysterious machinations of such an imaginative mind? Oh, how to encapsulate the processes by which the mundane is made pithy? (You've got to have a ration of mundane, for one thing. Then just add a pinch of pith.)
Or, more directly to the point, as my husband puts it: What are you doing all day?!
Ahem. Let me just say that writing all this stuff takes a certain kind of person.
And that sort of person may do particular things as a part of her writing life. In fact, she might even do some of those things ritualistically. So what? Is there a problem with that?
What sorts of ceremonies might such a writer conduct? Oh and wouldn't you like to know!
In fact, a guy named Mason Currey did want to know. Not about me. He’s never heard of me in spite of all the trouble I've gone to.
My adorable, if overlooked, eccentricity notwithstanding, I commend him for his expedition into the realm of the persistent writer. He collected working profiles of some of the creative greats and their weird little habits in his book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work.
First thing you’re going to notice – some of these guys are pretty whacky.
For example, according to Currey, Igor Stravinsky stood on his head to clear his brain. I guess it worked but his hats fit funny.
Beethoven counted out exactly 60 coffee beans for his morning cup before he sat down to compose. Now that seems just plain goofy. But Ludwig himself? Not goofy at all! In fact, if you look at his portraits he wears a perpetual frown, perhaps brought on by the bean counting.
Pulitzer Prize winning poet W. H. Auden believed that a life of "military precision was essential to his creativity," and so this meant constantly checking his watch. "Eating, drinking, writing, shopping, crossword puzzles, even the mailman’s arrival— all are timed to the minute and with accompanying routines." Today we call that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Auden even wrote about his practices:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone…
Seriously. He wrote that. Poets! What’re you going to do?
I’ll just clear up any misconceptions right now: I might have a twist or two, but I’m not W.H. Auden. Although I will admit to having a bunch of old wind-up chiming clocks that need frequent cajoling, so maybe I am checking them all the time. But it’s not the same.
On the other hand, perhaps I should take my neighbor’s dog a juicy bone as he hasn't quit barking since Arbor Day. I’ll just wedge it between his molars.
Here’s a good one: Benjamin Franklin started his day with an "air bath." I think that means he sat around naked. You've got to love Ben! Though somewhere I read he also had monumental scalp itch. Dandruff. That and an air bath. No wonder he lived alone.
But even fully clothed, if sweats and a rally cap qualify, this writer works a Capella. Unless you count Sports Radio. Yep. Just me, my worry beads, Marty Lurie and my blankie. Sigh.
Jean Paul Sartre ingested ten times the recommended daily dose of amphetamine. I guess they recommended amphetamine back then. He did get a lot done.
As much as I want to secure my niche, it looks like I’m going to have to cultivate some more interesting eccentricities.
As it is, sneaking up on the computer is the best I have to offer, and everyone does that.
What? You just walk right up to yours? In full sight? And it lets you?
Wow. Maybe I am quirky.