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Mary Hamilton: On Ritual

Mary Hamilton: On Ritual
“I try to not to get too connected to any one physical space or object when it comes to writing. I’ve made that mistake before. I’ve grown attached to coffee shops that went out of business and kitchen nooks in apartments where I just couldn’t live anymore.
“I write when I’m staring out the window on the bus. I’ve been a user of public transit for most of my adult life (the only exception being the five months I lived in LA when I was 20) and it’s the closest I can think to an office. I prefer to sit in a seat by the window. I prefer not to talk to strangers, which may seem like a strange thing to say, but on the buses in Chicago, strangers love talking.


“Sometimes I write using a pen, but I try not to get attached to any one pen. I’ve done that before. The pen was discontinued and I bought the last 24 pens in stock and I horded them away in my sock drawer for 10 years. That’s just not right.

“The other day, I got on the bus, and was pretty excited to find a seat by the window. As I was about to sit down a woman says, ‘You don’t want to do that,’ so I go and stand by the rear doors thinking maybe someone had peed on that seat or something. Maybe thrown up on the floor. A couple of blocks later we pull over and the driver makes everyone get off the bus. Apparently some guy was sitting in that spot by the window before I got on and he was covered in ants or lice or bed bugs and it took a few blocks for the bus driver to think, ‘Well, that’s just not right.’

“I like my time daydreaming on the bus, but I’m not so connected to that process that I would pass up an opportunity to drive a car or stay home and sleep. No matter the space, time, medium, or vehicle, the story will get written eventually.”


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: Emma StraubMarcy DermanskyNicolle ElizabethGabriel OrgreaseMichael Leong

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

3 thoughts on “Mary Hamilton: On Ritual

  1. Great stuff, Mary. I do set up my space much like a Pavlovian experiment, so that when I sit down at my desk, run my hands over the top of my computer muttering sweet nothings under my breath, I have blessed the space for a bounty of words. Good words. And I totally get the notion of the right pen, too, it really bugs me if the point is too fine, or even the wrong color ink. But I suppose you’re right, and I’ve heard many great minds speak to the idea of being able to write anywhere, anytime, under any condition.

    People in Chicago DO talk on the bus (or el train). So true. Headphones? Get a GIANT pair like you’re a DJ or something.

    I like windows too, something about staring out them, it’s like a movie, just waiting to see something happen: a bird pull up a worm, a kid fall down and skin his knee, a car back into another car and drive away. I guess we look for a bit of humanity on that stage right in front of us.

    If the story wants to come out, it’ll come out.

    Keep up the great work, hope your chap is doing well.

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