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.