The Tyranny of Ritual

A big reason that I don’t get more done crafting-wise (and life-wise, too, tbh) is something that I’m coming to think of as “the tyranny of ritual”: that is, there are too many damned preconditions to doing anything to get anything done.

This is sort of upside-down from how I expect things to work. Ritual is supposed to be good for creativity, right? How many times have you been told that to (for example) write well it is helpful to write at the same time every day or at the same desk or to always brush your teeth first or some other variation on the theme that if you arrange your body properly your mind will follow? Half a hundred, I’d guess. Possibly half a hundred this month alone, if you hang out with the right folks.

There is no denying that you really can affect your creative mood this way, or that you can help yourself through small rituals to slip into the flow just as you can help yourself drift off to sleep with some of the same tactics. You also run the risk, however, of not being able to work without the creative equivalent of your favorite teddy bear. This is the problem that I’m having right now.

If this and that and the other thing have to be right before you can start, and you have a full-time job and three kids and relationship issues and money problems and all of the other things that most of us deal with in one combination or another, those required conditions can be paralyzing even if your required ritual is something as simple as brushing your teeth.

So I’m trying something new. I’m trying to learn to just jump in.

This post is an excellent example. The idea was at the top of my mind, and I wanted to write about it. Usually before I work on anything I feel like I have to have my morning ducks in a row; I’ve showered, had breakfast, checked around the internet for anything really exciting (OMG R. Lee Ermey with knitting in his hands!) and because feeling like I’ve caught up clears my own mental state up a bit for some reason. (I’ve been reading blogs in the morning for ten years or so now. It’s a terribly ingrained habit. Sort of like the overuse of parenthesis.) I used to have a cigarette or three. By the time I’m done with all of that, it’s either time to rush to work or time to hang out with the kids, and I don’t ever get to the important part: the work I’m doing, the work I love and feel like I never have time for. By the point where I feel I can really settle in and get something done, the launch window has closed.

So this morning I got up and took a shower and instead of making breakfast I came right in here and wrote about what was on my mind. And you know what? It felt good. Sure, I’m a bit hungry, but what’s a brief delay in breakfast versus spending a little time doing something you truly enjoy doing?

I think I’m going to spend a little more time breaking the tyranny of my rituals. I have the feeling I’m going to surprise myself.

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