Writing Routines and Rituals: with an Ode to Toni Morrison.

I always get and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.
Toni Morrison

There’s a 1993 interview in the Paris Review by Elissa Schappell, where Toni Morrison dispenses her long-learned wisdoms on writing.

It was the start of the interview that really struck me. The idea of routine to get into writing. Even though I have never managed a long-lived writing routine, I Smudgedo realise that at my writing peak, I did have a sort of ritual – I used to burn sage. It’s called a smudge stick, which fairly resembles an illicit drug. I now know that smudge sticks are strongly associated the earth-mother-kind of spirituality, and I’m not at all a hippy-dippy type (though I have a lot of good friends who are). I discovered the background RE burning sage when a hippy-dippy friend made a comment about warding off evil spirits, the cleansing of auras, and such. It may well do that too, but for me, it was the ritual of the thing. The subconscious connections that the smell makes in my mind. 

A writing teacher of mine – Anne Aylor – used to burn sage in her classes, and I will forever associate it with being inspired and writing. It is amazing what the association does. It’s not often, but whenever I’ve chanced by the scent of burnt sage I feel the compulsion to sit quietly at a desk with a pen. It’s amazing that I forgot about it this strange association, but burning sage is something I’ve not done in quite some time. I need to re-enact this bizarre habit, and get back to a ritual and routine of writing.

Thank you Toni Morrison for reminding me.


3 responses to “Writing Routines and Rituals: with an Ode to Toni Morrison.

  1. When I read a book on dreams several years ago, I used to wake up extra early and the first thing I’d do is write. I loved it! My dreams came back to me so vividly and I dreamed almost every night. Then I finished the book and I stopped. When I started reading “The Artist’s Way” a few years later, I did the same thing, only this time they were called “morning pages.” I’d get up extra early and just write. I loved it. I produced such great journal entries. Then I finished the book, got a different job, I don’t know what else, but I stopped again. Thinking back to it — I loved writing in the silence and stillness of the mornings, but for one reason or another I stopped. I’ve got new routines now, but like you with the sage, if I’m ever up that early I get that urge to put pen to paper and let the ink flow, if only for a few quiet moments. Hope you are able to recapture your routine! 🙂

    • Thanks Arlene. Yes, there really is something special about the early morning – the silence and the pre-dawn light coming in. I’ve just started getting up early again, but to go to the gym, not to write. I feel like it shouldn’t have to be a choice between the two, but somehow it ends up being so – I guess that that’s just the way it is with free time. Perhaps I should dedicate half my mornings to the gym and half to getting up early and getting the sage-burning going on. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Pingback: The Daily Routines of Famous Writers | i.am.sophus.

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