SERIAL CHAT: THE RITUALS OF WRITERS
Being a writer isn’t a choice. It’s a condition and those of us afflicted are intimately acquainted with the suffering we were born to endure. Because our tortured lives are lived in the service of our art, we strive to sacrifice our very souls at the altar of literature for the sake of presenting the world with the beauty of our pain.
Today, we have decided to share with you the burdensome joy of our oft-flailing endeavors to create for you, Dear Reader, the finest, most insightful fiction our poet-souls can spew forth. We shall reveal our rituals and our deepest secrets so that you may understand what all writers go through every day of their tormented lives to give the gift of verseful prose and to keep the word-thirsty demons of our condition at bay and our sanity at least partially intact.
TT: So, Jerod, I used to use heroin to spark my imagination, but that wasn’t quite elegiac enough, so now I make my own absinthe. Not only is it a staple of great literary tradition, I also find the color green clarifying and provocative and it allows me to maintain both creativity and beauty in my life. Do you have a similar support system?
JS: I gave up absinthe when my liver protested too much. I replaced that sweet nectar by the very bonnet Laura Ingalls Wilder wore when she was compelled to write her Little House on the Prairie series. It still brandishes the magic of long ago, which really was beneficial when channeling Sterling Bronson in Beautiful Monster. http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-Mimi-A-Williams/dp/1615727752/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1364789288&sr=8-17&keywords=beautiful+Monster Tamara, what attire do you don to conjure up your tortured brilliance?
TT: I dress as a Union gunnery officer, circa 1864, because after all, isn’t writing a war with words? Words are my rifle, my computer is my sabre and rattling it is my life. I’ve worn this outfit for all my novels except Moonfall* when I found it necessary to dress in a full Felician nun’s habit, complete with the garters and holey leggings of the Benedictine monks. Do you perform any rituals to enhance your performance?
JS: I believe that to get to the creative depths of our souls, we must maintain the precarious balance of each of our universes by creating and destroying in equal portions. That being said, my rituals include but are not limited to breaking furniture, smashing mirrors, throwing champagne glasses into the fireplace, watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns, and animal husbandry.
No, but seriously, my real rituals are far less spectacular than any of those. I like to wear electronic nipple clamps while I’m slaving over my work. There’s something about the power juicing through my body that I believe adds an adventurous edge to my writing. I also center myself by counting the hairs on the back of my left hand. There are many hairs and this helps me find inner peace. It’s my Zen moment of the day and I always look forward to it. Do you have any rituals, Tamara?
TT: I do, but none as interesting as yours, I’m afraid. I keep a framed signed photograph of a young Samuel Clemens over my computer. It’s been handed down in my family since he presented it to my great-great-grandparents, Chester and Sarah Bellham as a wedding gift in 1859. (They were traveling after their wedding on the very first steamboat he piloted after receiving his license.) Each evening, at the end of the working day, I close my computer and light a votive candle kept on the little altar below the portrait. Then I choose thirteen ants out of my husband’s ant farm and hold them, one by one, over the flame with long tweezers until they crisp while I recite these lines partially from Tolkien:
Cut the cloth and tread the fat!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Splash the wine on every door!
Hubba hubba shebop shebop
Hobbits, don’t let my new book flop!
Those lines have spoken to me since I was ten years old in ways I can’t begin to explain, even to myself. Perhaps it’s merely silly superstition, but I believe that these small sacrifices aid my creativity.
JS: That’s amazing, Tamara. I do the same thing, but I didn’t admit it earlier because I didn’t want PETA to go after me. I do it a little differently. My altar includes a painting of Stevie Nicks and a tambourine, which I shake vigorously before sacrificing my ants to her. After the sacrifices have been executed, I look up to the Stevie Nicks painting and recite the following lines three times:
“Just like the white-winged dove…
Sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’
Ooh, baby, ooh, said, ooh…”
TT: Why Stevie Nicks?
JS: Why Mark Twain?
TT: Good point. We all contend with our private demons in our own ways. Jerod, they say no book is written by just one person, so tell me what role your wife plays in your writing life.
JS: She lies. She tells people I’m a plumber because she’s very embarrassed, but in private, she’s quite supportive, going so far as to help me count the hairs on the back of my hand to help me focus. I couldn’t do it without her because she’s a far keener mathematician than I. What of Robert Damien? How does he cope with your literary mistress?
TT: Threesomes. Well, Jerod, in closing, what advice would you give to new writers?
JS: As a natural born writer, you’re surely already hanging on to life by the thinnest of threads, so my advice to invest in plenty of anti-depressants, read books such as The Story of O by Pauline Réage, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and of course, The Back Passage by James Lear. Also, find a good luck charm – worry stones. It’s nice to have something to rub whilst pounding away at your work, and according to ancient legend, worry stones are also good for your circulation depending on the vigor of your worry. Additionally, porn is good because it clears the mind, but make sure you have a keyboard cover. Exercise. Kegels are great because you can do them right at your desk and the keyboard cover also comes in handy. Also I glue leather elbow patches to my Lycra Spandex unitard and carry around a meerschaum pipe because it makes me look literary. I advise all new writers do something similar. Think like the writer — BE the writer! What’s your advice, TT?
TT: I advise always taking writing very, very seriously. There’s no joking around when it comes to being a Published Author. This is a business, damn it, and you must be a professional at all times. Make sure, as well, that your subtext is well thought out and inserted consistently so that people will know just how brilliant you are–and obviously, you must be sure there are always many deeper meanings in whatever you are writing. Thinking like Camus is excellent for romance writers, and I recommend Nietzsche for humorists, but the cant of any serious philosopher will fit the other genres.
Any more to add, Jerod?
JS: Yes. I agree one hundred and seven percent. You must take your art as seriously as you do every breath you take. Each move you make and each claim you stake in writing is important. You don’t put on the red light. Just write. Write like the wind. And remember, I’ll be watching you.
TT: One last question, Jerod. However did you get the original Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet?
*You can find links to Moonfall and all of Tamara’s other books at the all new and ever so exciting http://tamarathorne.com