Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing Superstitions

I was supposed to leave for Baguio on Thursday but my friends told me that I can ride with them Friday. I said, Yes, but something kept me awake at midnight for no apparent reason. That is, until about 100 kilometers later when I looked at my watch and exclaimed, "It's Friday the 13th!" A few kilometers later in Narvacan, we blew a tire.
"I'm not superstitious," I smugly told my friends. But am I not? Maybe not like Saul Bellow (the Pinoy band in the 1980s known as "Dean's December" came from the title of his book) who has two typewriters. One is for essay and criticism and another for fiction. They should never, never be interchanged.
I remembered seeing a photo of a rabbit foot owned by Ernest Hemingway. Only it wasn't already a foot but a bone. It must had been rubbed too often by the great writer. Isabelle Allende in an interview said that before writing, she would light candles to summon the spirits and her muses and then would offer fresh flowers and incense. She does this every time she writes. Maybe that's why there would be few Ibaloi creative writers if they follow the same vein. They would have to butcher a black pig every time they have to write.
You think this is expensive? What about a modern German dramatist who installed a sprinkler system not on the ceiling but on the roof because he can only write when he can hear the sound of rain on the tin roof? There are writers who can write only when they are standing up (Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll and Gunter Grass) and those who can write only lying down (Mark Twain, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, Edith Wharton and William Styron). Of course, the rest would be sitting down.  Maybe I can start my own writing ritual, writing by standing on only one leg.
I read somewhere that rituals in writing are effective because of  the so-called Hebb's Law in neuroscience that "Neurons that fire together, wire together." Which means the neurons fired when you are smoking incense also fire the neurons when you are writing, they "wire together."  This means without the ritual, the writer cannot induce himself or herself to write.
Rosanne Bane, a writing coach, said that rituals can help a beginning writer. "Simply select a sensory experience you'd like to associate with your writing and engage in that experience every time you write and preferably only when you write. You might want to eat licorice or lemon drops, drink a particular flavor of tea, or burn a scented candle or incense. You could drape your computer in red velvet or run your fingertips over a small shell or stone. You could select the soundtrack for your novel, giving each major character her or his own theme song to play when writing about that character. You could create a collage of photos related to your current writing project and set the collage next to your computer whenever you're working on that project."
I thought of a writing ritual using neuroscience. I will only write on Friday the 13th. 


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