Writing Rule #41: You Have To Do What Works

20 sided dice

And then there are the days you roll seven ones in a row… (Photo credit: Konstantin Lazorkin)

If there are hidden cameras in my home, one, stop that you creepy bastard, and two, the footage contained therein would probably be acceptable grounds for psychiatric committal.*

Not every day, mind you. But some days…some days are harder than others. And that’s when the weird starts.

That’s when you’ll find me rolling a pair of d-20s, one black and one white, until they both come up as critical hits. Or when I’ll started shooting foam suction cup darts into the ceiling, the windows, and the occasional target I set up in the sunroom. Or doodling cartoon versions of myself on sticky notes and stick them on the walls so they look like they’re arguing with each other.

I’d say that’s when I start talking to myself, but I do that all. The. Fucking. Time.

And the other day, for no visible reason whatsoever, I stopped in the middle of a difficult paragraph, took off my shirt, and continued writing. Wasn’t warm; it was barely above freezing outside. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I wasn’t writing about someone walking shirtless around their living room. It just…seemed like the next thing to do. And, to be fair, the writing got easier after that. I don’t know why. I’ve stopped questioning it.

The point of this odd little list is not to provide evidence that may someday be used against me. It’s just to illustrate a single point: Writers are fucking weird. We are. Sorry. But although it might not seem that way, there is a method to this madness.

This is about ritual. I know people who play a game of Solitaire before writing every day, who have to clear out their email before starting, who need certain music playing, or total silence. Who write better at home, in their office, at a coffee shop, alone, with a group, hanging upside down wrapped in a cocoon of their own wings. It’s not really about the writing; it’s about the mindset we create. We’re no better than playoff-beard-growing hockey fans and students clutching rabbit appendages before a test. We want the magic.  And if something seems like a good idea at the time, hey, why not? It might be that one tiny thing that pushes us over the top into brilliance, or at least allows us to get to the end of the damn page before the deadline.

And, yeah, we know it’s superstition. But it might just get our minds working the right way.

So we do what we have to in order to appease whatever brain goblins are occupying our skulls these days. We have our rituals, our lucky tokens, our ceremonial cup of tea/cigarette/fifth of bourbon/monkey adrenal gland before we get down to work. We occupy ourselves in odd ways while we’re working because the alternative is not doing anything at all.

Some days are hard. And that’s when you have to do what works—whatever that is—to get it done.

*And this is without checking my Amazon recommendations. No fucking joke, the last list they sent me was a dozen books with ‘Evil Genius’ in the title.


4 thoughts on “Writing Rule #41: You Have To Do What Works

  1. Steph that author that you and Krys like Guy what’s his face that wrote “Lions of el rasand” is having a book signing here in Vic…would you like me to get you some stuff signed? I would have mailed you directly but when I killed Facebook I lost all my email addresses…pass it on to Krys ive sent her a few emails but it always takes her so bloody long to get back and this is happening like next week


    • Hey Nik,

      I’d no idea you were out in Vic these days. How’re things out there?
      Yeah, the author is Guy Gavriel Kay and he just released a new book. I don’t tend to collect signed editions myself (mostly because I tend to read in the bath and drop things) but I really appreciate the offer. I don’t get to many big book launches living all the way out here. Thanks for thinking of me.
      I’ll drop a line to Krys and see if she wants anything, but it might be a while before I hear back. She’s eight miles from nowhere right now.
      If you want to catch up, drop me a line at bareknucklewriter@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you, find out what you’ve been up to these days.


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