My Pen is Dying

And that’s okay… writing ritual and doing it anyway.

My favorite pen is dying. Well, it’s the back up from my favorite pen, which I lost. After I lost my favorite pen I started wearing my second favorite pen on a bit of ‘leather’ around my neck because I needed to keep track of it. In the summer heat, the ‘leather’ just… died. My pen fell. I didn’t notice it until an hour later while I was walking back along the same path. The pen had sat out on the heat for an hour. Japan summer heat? Pretty intense and very very wet. Island nation and all.

The Offender. My (second) favorite pen on its slow march toward death.

I didn’t really notice the problem until I sat down to work on an outline for a project. The ink is skipping. It scratches instead of glides. It’s not fun to write with. So. I kept just… not finishing the outline. See, the pen is a magical artifact. An important part of my writing ritual. The right pen, the right notebook, the right outline, all this stuff is the pieces, the artifacts that make my writing ritual possible.

But see, it’s not really about the pen. Or the other pen. Or the notebook or even the outlining methodology. It’s about me. Everyone has other garbage that weighs them down, and stuff that lifts them up. For me, sometimes my stuff that’s dragging me down taints the stuff that picks me up. I don’t need a perfect pen to write the perfect outline to write the story. Honestly. I need to write the story.

So many writers I know, we build up these rituals. I think rituals and the artifacts of those rituals are fantastic. I feel like they’re fantastic buffers against the mundane, and a good ritual head space separates you enough from reality to let you hit flow. (Omg. Mena. Flow? Yes really. I should talk about that, huh? Later.)

The problem is not in having rituals, it’s in letting rituals become your excuse for not doing the thing you need to do. I have this pen, I love the way it writes, it makes prewriting feel so good! But it’s just a pen. I can get another pen. I can get a quick hit of dopamine as I prewrite in another way. It isn’t the pen, the notebook, or the ritual that is the magic. You are the magic. Your dopamine ritualized headspace flow is the magic.

So what do we do? Rituals and artifacts make writing easier, faster maybe even better, but we can’t get addicted to them — or they will take hold of you and you will resent their absence! — For me at least I shoot Joe in a high speed pursuit and present his corpse to the… wait no. Not that.

To avoid letting rituals and artifacts control me I change them. A lot. I cynically and with purpose decide THIS IS MY NEW WRITING PEN! Or THIS IS THE GREATEST (100¥) NOTEBOOK IN THE WORLD! It’s part of the ritual. It’s an artifact. Next week when the cat pees on the notebook. Whatever. Time to sanctify a new notebook! Yes! I make the rituals they don’t make me. I own the artifacts, they don’t own me.

The pen was inside of me all along!

Nope, not actually sure why I made this.

Yeah, that about covers it.

Next time imma talk about changing up my outline methods to shake out the cobwebs.


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