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Publetariat Dispatch: When Do You Need A Little Ritual? When You Want To Do Some Magic

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!
In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author Zoe Winters talks about writer rituals.

So… I am someone who has long scorned the idea of “having a set of writing rituals before starting to write.” I didn’t like the idea of having these little OCD things I had to do before writing. Or these “stalling techniques”, however one chooses to look at them. But I’m thinking perhaps I was looking at the situation all wrong. Sure it ‘could’ become a little OCD. It ‘could’ be a form of procrastination. But it also ‘could’ be a way of training your brain to get you into the right frame of mind to write.

This is a little bit related to the question of ‘where to write’. I never considered that very important either. Have laptop, will travel. Anywhere and everywhere was “where to write”. But I’m beginning to look at that differently as well. Especially given my tendency to go long stretches of “working all the time” and then long stretches of “barely working at all” (which doesn’t balance out to optimum productivity in case you thought it did). I have no balance.

The benefit and the problem of working for yourself from home is that you can do anything you want. It’s a benefit for obvious reasons but it’s a problem because it can become this unstructured free-for-all where you don’t know where your work ends and your life begins or vice versa. And maybe these walls are all artificial anyway and unnecessary. That’s what I thought for awhile, until I started feeling like I was in constant limbo. While working I wanted to be or could be “not working”. While not working I wanted to be or could be “working”.

It started to become impossible to be in the moment of what I was doing because there were no boundaries. I’ve worked in nearly every room of my house at all sorts of wacky hours of the day, to the point that everything has blurred together and my home is my workplace. Not in the sense of: “it’s where I work”, but in the sense of seeing it more like a workplace than like a home. It would be like living in the back office of Amazon or something. Does Amazon even have a back office? They probably have 500 of them.

Anyway. So I was thinking… what I really need is some routine and structure in my life and a clear separation of work and home. So I thought about renting an office. Not like traditional commercial rental but a single SMALL office for one person to sit in with a desk and work. Or some kind of “coworking” situation where there are multiple cubicles and you’re only renting one of them. It would basically force me to get up and be up during normal work hours that other humans work, get ready, get out of the house, and “go to work”. Very clear separation.

I mean it’s not perfect. There is the tedium of getting ready and commuting and eating up time and gas money. And then the ongoing office expense. But it’s definitely a clear work/home separation and more mentally healthy than what I’ve been doing.

I called a few places that had the sort of thing I was looking for and talked to them but one of the places had no vacancies, and the other one only had large offices currently available (translation: expensive!) or a coworking situation but there weren’t even cubicles. And really… honestly… I need a door, or some sort of subdivided semi-private space in which to work.

I’m sure I could sublet some cubicle in some back corner or some small closet of an office somewhere. I’m sure there are plenty of businesses that have more space than they actually need/use and they wouldn’t mind someone subletting a little of that space from them for a few hundred bucks a month. But, I DO have a spare bedroom in my house.

I haven’t turned it into an office yet because at first I thought I didn’t really NEED a dedicated office because I can “work anywhere”. And then, once it became clear to me the perils involved in that… I thought that just setting up a home office surely wouldn’t/couldn’t be enough. But Tom says I’ll be surprised if I am consistent and don’t play in the office or work in any other part of the house and keep consistent office hours. (This is based on his personal experience going through what I’m going through and then having his own office when he worked from home for himself in the past.) Sure, this doesn’t get me out of the house, but if I can keep the routine and the separation, then I can shave off the time I’d spend commuting and be finished with work faster and have a bit longer free time for the rest of the day… time during which I can leave my house and interact with others.

So I’m going to try the home office thing first. I’ve got a great room that is literally a blank canvas with nothing in it. I’m going to set it up in a way where it is functional and has a ‘professional’ feeling but also where it has a creative feeling so that it’s a place I want to go to work and create. I’m going to spend a little on this because otherwise I was going to spend a lot spread out over indefinite months to rent space that I’d probably still want to spruce up a bit.

I’m going to try to be consistent with the room being specifically for work and not bringing work out into the rest of my life or the rest of my life into work, and keeping sane, consistent work hours. If I do these things, it may be enough structure/separation. If not, I could look into an off-site option. But I was also thinking about the kind of specific environment I want to create in, and the truth is that I have a lot more freedom to create that environment in space that is truly my own than in a rented cubicle or nook.

And then I got to thinking about how I’ll probably have my own coffee maker in my office so during work time I’m spending my time mainly “in my office” and not wandering all over the house in various procrastination exercises… like hot beverages. That was what led me to the idea of rituals and how I’ve poo pooed both the idea of pre-writing rituals and a specific space/room for writing.

But structure and routines are important both to make life feel more organized and manageable and also to get into the mindset you want to be in for various activities. So I’m going to try this space and ritual thing to see if that helps me to create the kind of structure and routine that I need to keep my writing sanity.

I’ve always felt writing was a form of magic. Why wouldn’t one have ritual and significant space for that?


This is a reprint from The Weblog of Zoe Winters.


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