Week 14

I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m going to write a sonnet series about the creation of California. I’m using the dual stories of William Mulholland and John Muir to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.

This week, I thought I’d write about my process, which I love. I generally spend all day writing. I don’t mean that every moment is filled with my typing, but that I spend about the three hours of the morning locked behind a computer. The rest of the day, I write intermittently in odd hours between work.

But it doesn’t start that way. It starts in the early morning with me being confused and frustrated. Every morning, I wake up with absolutely no idea of where I’m going. I turn to my wife and ask her what she thinks I should do, and she generally shrugs, and then we go for a ride.

I take a ride because I live in Los Angeles. For years, my daily round trip commute was 120 miles, which is not unusual for an Angelino. I’ve gotten used to getting on the road, turning off the radio, and working out creative problems. Most of us do that.

In the morning, Ann and I get in the car and drive and talk about what we’re working on and help each other through our doubts and confusions. It doesn’t take much of a drive either. I’ve gotten on Pacific Coast Highway, driven a block, and turned around because we figured out what we are going to do.

I think ritual is important when you’re a writer. I don’t like driving much, but I’ve gotten used to it. Back when I lived out in the desert because I was poor and gas was cheaper than rent, I made sure that I used all of that dead time to write poems. I did that for five years, telling myself that I needed to have a poem at least half-written mentally by the time I got to work. The rhythm of the freeway has gotten into me. It’s magic for my wife and me.

I have other rituals I suppose. They’re unconscious but probably just as important. They’ve burned neural pathways through my brain, but this is my favorite. Maybe it’s the time I get to talk to my wife. Maybe it’s the exploration. I don’t know what it is, but it always works.

So I’m curious. What are your writing rituals?