When reading or working on my computer, I always have a pen and paper next to me. I like to think it’s there so that I can take notes and remember what I’m doing, but the really reason it’s there is because I don’t feel comfortable without it. It’s just something I’m compelled to do even though there might not be a great explanation for why it’s there. So, before I walk into the “white room” of whatever I’m about to do, pulling the pen and paper out to act as a buddy by my side is an example of a kind of ritual that helps me prepare to create.
As a high school baseball player, my coach was simply obsessed with rituals. Everything about each game had to be the same, from the order we walked off the bus, to the counting of stretches, finally to the infield and outfield warmup. If we messed up at all, he was absolutely infuriated. This was his ritual. Just I feel irked when I don’t have a pen and paper next to me when I’m writing on the computer, a faulty warmup would test Coach Cimini’s mental stability. Looking back, the reason he may have been so focused on this strict regiment (we thought it was absolutely absurd) because it was the part of the day that he felt like he could control. Once the game started, as a coach, the game was mostly out of his hands.
Tharp hits on this point as well. “To some this might seem superstitious, but a superstition is nothing more than a ritual repeated religously. The habit, and the faith invested in it, converts it into an act that provides comfort and strength.” When going into the creative environment (for Coach Cimini — managing the baseball game; for me — producing my best work for school), it is extemely beneficial to have ‘comfort and strength’. Wouldn’t it be great if we always felt comfortable, and strong?
I wish I had more ritual in my life. I can’t say that every morning I do a certain activity or each evening at 6:30 I watch Jeopardy. Mostly, I think it’s because my life is always changing, and I don’t mind constantly changing pace. It’s part of what keeps my head on a swivel, keeps me alert — the challenge and excitement of new experiences everyday. That being said, as Tharp points out, rituals don’t have to revolve completely around the activities you do. It can be as simple as taking ten deep breaths each day after lunch to recenter yourself and prepare yourself to have a productive remainder of the day.
I’d like to have an activity as a ritual, such as hailing a cab to the gym (as Tharp does) each morning. But my lifestyle has never been that structured and I’m not sure it will be in the next few months before I graduate. So, rather than focusing on an actual activity, a chunk of time, that becomes my ritual, I’m resolved to create ritual in other ways throughout my day.
OK here’s an idea: I’ll listen to the same song each and every time before I start work on my Capstone project. I’m interested to see how this will affect my state of mind and creative potential. As I’m getting started with brainstorming, analyzing potential ideas, and challenging myself to think in new, creative ways, this could be a way to put myself in a happy place of strength and comfort. Now, to the depths of Spotify to find a tune!