– How a writer builds a rabbit hole – and stays in it!
Ask anyone who knows one – artists of any stripe are a superstitious lot. They each have their own invocations, preparations and magickal formulae to set up their creative space and prepare, even if they never know what, precisely, they’re preparing for.
A writer friend of mine calls this ‘circling the wagons’. This is a code phrase for writers who will do anything, literally anything to avoid having to write. If the brilliant 2005 documentary ‘Dreams With Sharp Teeth’ is any indication, not even the highly prolific Harlan Ellison is exempt. Which gives me more courage than he’ll likely ever know.
Writers will… get away from their computers, start a load of laundry, plow through the dirty dishes, straighten up their desks, begin ill-advised home improvement projects, turn the WiFi back on and surf the Web. Whatever it takes to distract from the fact that The Hour Is Nigh and no excuses are valid any longer.
It is time to invoke and conjure. Which is a terrifying time and a truly scary place, because from that moment on, no writer is able to control much at all. (For writers, creative control = editing).
But first, the comforting magick of ritual to make sure that rabbit hole is as safe and secure as can be and thoroughly feathered.
For me, this means… Lighting the gold candle in the Feng Shui-ed prosperity area of my writing space. It’s surrounded by “gold” coins (leftover euros from a trip to Florence) in a red dish flanked by a green wine bottle containing a purple silk lotus.
Second, tea. Since I don’t usually drink coffee after 5 PM, that means tea. Sometimes it’s mint and sometimes it’s an exotic Korean variety a friend sent to me recently (chrysanthemum tea, anyone?) but mostly, it’s either green tea, lavender tea or good old-fashioned Earl Grey.
Third, music. I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. I have concocted an 11-hour playlist specifically for writing, because here’s another doozy – I am physically/psychologically/mentally incapable of writing to any music I don’t know well. If it’s not so familiar I know the lyrics by heart more or less, I’ll get distracted and before I know it… exit rabbithole. I’ll start thinking about the lyrics, the artist, the circumstances, the album, the reviews of said album and before long, I’ll plaster myself all over Wikipedia to look up something completely irrelevant. And so, the Muse leaves the building. And I’m eclectic – in no order of importance my playlist contains… the Ramones, the original Misfits, Fields of the Nephilim, the Cocteau Twins, the Cure, Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Burzum, Darkthrone (I’m a massive Fenriz fan), Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Donald Fagen, Godsmack, Tool, Type O Negative, Pantera, AC/DC, Frank Zappa, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sheila Chandra, Kate Bush, Ondyne’s Demise, Nox Arcana, Joy Division and Danzig.
Fourth, although it maybe should have been first, is to ensure my two cats (the Edward Albee George & Martha of the feline world) are fed and watered. Woe betide me if I overlook this single step, since those pesky creatures will not allow me to do anything – except fall and break my neck on one of them – until I do.
Fifth, I either perfume my person and the room or else I burn incense. This makes sense given that I’m also a perfume writer. Eighteen spectacular perfumes were created to conjure up the Devil in a bottle, and trust me – they work!
So. The iPig is playing. The candle is lit. The room is perfumed with infernal permutations of labdanum and frankincense. The blinds are down and the cats are asleep.
Now, I can finally begin to begin to begin.
This is where the horror story starts!
Because the monsters and demons are waiting in the wings for their turn in the spotlight.