Challenge Journal, On Ritual

Before I write, I don’t think about how the creation of a piece will come to form. I sit in the library, with a tea in hand and ten hours of ocean waves crashing through my headphones, staring at a blank page waiting for my fingertips to start typing something. This something could manifest as an opening paragraph, a brainstorm of topics, a note on what to research, or whatever. There’s no tried and tested method I have that gets me into the swing of writing. The only thing I can guarantee that will precede the creation of a work is my tea and the ocean’s waves. So, according to Tharp and her ‘wake up, get in the cab’ ritual, this would be my ritual for writing. But, I don’t consider it so, as it is my ritual for everything that requires focus. It doesn’t spark the wheels of creativity or massage my brain into action, but instead it signals to me that it is time to do what I need to do.

My relationship with rituals is complicated. More recently, the crumbling of day-to-day rituals has left me lost in its debris. My life used to run on a schedule like it was a well-oiled machine, making my every day life a ritual in itself. While this appears under the guise of routine, this routine was actually a sacred ritual. Each action meant more than the action itself. My nutritional routine signaled to me that I took care of my body and what I put in it, as did my workout routine. My study habits indicated that I was working hard, taking school seriously, adequately preparing for working life, and being productive. Even the time allotted to spend with my friends had purpose and necessity, as that was the part of my day that made all the other arduous and tedious tasks seem worth it. As a result, the ways in which I conducted everyday life used to be a ritual. But such is not that case anymore, as I have begun to give into immediate desires rather than entrusting my rituals as they became too routine. The daunting thought of waking up to perform every single ritual became far too heavy for me to bear. In effect, I feel lost and confused without the comfort of familiarity to turn to. And what’s harder is trying to reignite the rituals that once guided my life, as they seem just so demanding. The notion of ritual then looks paradoxical, as it is something both of necessity and destruction.

What does this mean for the ritual I must create around the practice of writing? In my life I have clearly learned that rituals are as good as they are bad. When it works, it works and it works well. But only because I am a slave to it and because, as Tharp says, I “do it without questioning the need.” The independence I gain from abandoning ritual consequently turns life upside down and therefore makes me feel even more dependent on ritual.

So where do I go from here?

As I think about developing a ritual to help me exercise creativity as a habit, I wonder if it will even do me any good. In performing the same action prior to every writing exercise, what if it becomes to weary and daunting to even perform, making me lose my way once again? Tharp notes “by making the start of the sequence automatic, they replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.” But my problem was in beginning to doubt and fear the comfort and routine in my daily life. Therefore, my writing ritual must consist of an anti-ritual of sorts. Something that I do every time I begin writing however something that doesn’t remain static. Perhaps the spontaneity of the ritual will enhance my creative process rather than stifle my excitement towards starting. While I could come up with a laundry list of ideas now, I figured it would be ineffective without trial and error. So, I’m curious to see where my experimentation with rituals takes me and in turn to see how it will affect my writing.

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