Challenge Blog One: Rituals

When Tharp listed out a few of her daily rituals, it forced me to consider my own. At first I was struck by my seeming lack of ritual. Sure, I have a structure to my day guided mainly by classes and how hungry I am at any given time, but that didn’t seem like the same thing as ritual. When considering writing specifically, I thought back to the papers I wrote over last semester and realized that the writing process I help students with everyday as a consultant in Sweetland, isn’t necessarily what I follow myself. I was struck by a scary thought. Is it possible that I have written so many papers over the course of my academic career and felt overly capable of turning in “decent” work that I have developed a rushed, un-ritualized habit of writing?

Upon further reflection, I found this wasn’t entirely true for a couple of reasons. First, I think that ritual is different than having invested interest in a paper. Maybe I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the topic of everything I wrote, but I still went through the same stages. I always start by making myself a cup of tea before I even think about sitting down and when I finally do it’s at my desk, in my room, with my door shut. So far that gives me two rituals: a hot drink and a quiet, secluded space. Like Tharp’s ritual of getting into the taxi cab they are small, but important first steps.

My last one I thought of after reflecting on a cover letter I submitted last week for a job I was especially excited about. I didn’t know where to start, because it differed drastically from any other job I had ever applied to, which meant a completely revamped cover letter. So, I took out a pen and paper and jotted down some of my qualities that I thought best reflected me and suited the job at hand. Then I thought, duh! This is my ritual! I always, without fail jot down a handwritten, rough, and not honestly all that detailed outline (I’m talking a few sentences at most and sometimes just a few words), before I start writing. It’s never much, but once I have my idea written down on paper I can start formulating the rest of my essay/cover letter/what have you. It might sound trivial, doesn’t every writer formulate some sort of outline before starting? Maybe, but having that spark of inspiration down on paper in a word or two is my third ritual nonetheless. Hopefully I’ll discover more this semester.

One thought to “Challenge Blog One: Rituals”

  1. Hey Brenna,

    I was struck by your first paragraph line of a “rushed, unritualized habit”. An unritualized habit? What an interesting combination of words! Do they even make sense together? Then, you go on to say that you realized that your habits do have rituals… some that you didn’t even notice because they have become so normalized (as a writer composing an outline). But now that you point it out, I think there is a difference between a ritual and a habit.

    ritual – an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.
    habit – an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

    So while your acquired behavior pattern of creating an outline every time before you write, it is a ritual because it is a procedure for a rite (write) :).

    This made me think about if I have any unritualized habits that I rush, or are ineffective and don’t necessarily help me prepare to enter the white room of creativity. In other words, bad habits. Going to facebook.com before I start my work is an example. This can become routine and be detrimental rather than ritual. Finding these bad habits and eliminating them, while recognizing the rituals is important. Thanks for pointing this out Brenna… I’m looking forward to your next post!

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