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Marcy Dermansky: On Ritual

Marcy Dermansky: On Ritual

“I am a morning person. I wake up early. I drink coffee. I feel pretty good. I have often speculated: If I could wake up and start my day writing, what could I really do? Get done? I could do wonders.

“This decade — the 2000s — I have written and published two novels: first Twins and now Bad Marie. This decade — the 2000s — I have also had a part time job, in the morning, picking news stories for a corporate website, working from home. It’s a job I have lived with like a second skin. I have gone on many vacations  (and even surreptitiously, one writing residency) where I wake up, drink my coffee, and pick the news. I could go nowhere that did not have a reliable Internet connection.

“Writing, my writing, wouldn’t happen until the late afternoon. Writing came after the paying job was done. It also came after the laundry, eating lunch, buying groceries, and the film reviews (another one of my other paying jobs). Basically, after everything else. Somehow, I needed to get all that mental clutter out of the way before I could get to work.

“In this decade, living in New York City, living on limited income, I have never established a proper writing ritual. I have never had a beautiful room, or a perfect desk, a gorgeous view. I don’t even have the best laptop computer. But I have written. I have made it a point to write. And with both novels, when I was in the thick of the actual writing, when I knew what needed to be done, going fast, the best choice was always to write like a compulsive fool. Work late into the night. Not go out, not see friends. Not eat a proper dinner with Jürgen.

“The funny thing is, as of very recently, I don’t have that morning job anymore. You would think, then, that I could get up and get straight to writing. That I have finally arrived. Instead, I have a baby. I wake up. Or she wakes up. We wake up. Nina smiles at me. I smile at her. I say something silly, I give Nina a bottle, change her diaper, and the day begins. I make the coffee. The writing, it still comes later.

“I often think about Max Fischer in Rushmore, insisting, repeatedly, ‘I wrote a hit play.’ That’s a little how I feel, now, after the publication of Bad Marie. I wrote a hit play. Time Magazine called my book ‘irresistible.’ Shouldn’t I have time to write? Where is my shiny new laptop computer? Where is my room with a view? I wrote a hit play. Okay. Deep breath. It’s never to late to start a ritual.”



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: stacymus@gmail.com

Previously ritualized: Nicolle ElizabethGabriel Orgrease, Michael Leong

*Some responses may be eligible for posting at American Short Fiction blog, where I began the On Ritual series.

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