Bill Cotter: On Ritual
Writer Bill Cotter (left) with writer Annie La Ganga
“I wish I could start this piece with something like ‘An ordinary, workaday writing session for me begins with an hour of meditative levitation followed by guttural sounding and a pint of warmed duckling bouillon paired with a cruller, and then I sit on my brambles and dip a bamboo quill into some homemade oak gall ink and pen away on ivory calfskin vellum until I’ve produced a substantive, holistic, polished, and, if possible, already-sold piece of writing etc. etc.,’ but I can’t, because my writing process is neither workaday nor interesting. For me, a typical writing session will begin in the evening (the daylight hours being spent putting off the session till the last practicable instant), and continue for three hours. I write on a laptop. I’ve been doing so for so long now that writing out the rent check every month is the only act of penmanship I can perform without cramping and blistering, the point of the pen wandering off midword when I suddenly forget how to draw a letterform.
“The last couple of years I’ve been working in an old leather chair, a relic from the den of a childhood home. The chair’s seat cushion is torn, exposing a crumbly, noisome foam that will transfer its odor to its sitter if the sitter is not protected with Tyvek or some such. Apart from that, the chair is adequate, and set at a profitable angle of repose–too steep for napping; just shallow enough to maintain a level of discomfort suitable to the writing of fiction. The room in which the chair is located is also my day-job workshop (book restoration), so in order to block out the many distractions, I keep the room dark, and the arm-sweep around my chair bare except for a big ice coffee. It is from this dark, smelly, uncomfortable leather hole that my tedious, unsalable, self-conscious, derivative, and unrewarding fictional worlds spring.”
Tomorrow: Annie La Ganga On Ritual.
All this year: Happy 2011, ever’body! Hope yours is shiny and bright.
On Ritual at Big Other
Is it true, dear writer? Do people in all walks of life find that “starting off with a simple, ordered routine establishes a mindset which helps get any job done”? Questia claims it’s so (August 2009). I remain on a mission to prove or debunk the notion.
Help me. Jot down your writing ritual (or not). We’ll discover–and let readers know, finally and forever–if rituals really do pay off.
- 300 word limit.
- Rolling deadline.
- Recommend others.
- Reply with a pic of you–in your workspace or in outer space.
- Replies, questions or comments: email@example.com
Previously ritualized: Mary Hamilton, Emma Straub, Marcy Dermansky, Nicolle Elizabeth, Gabriel Orgrease, Michael Leong
*Some responses may be eligible for posting at American Short Fiction blog, where I began the On Ritual series.