When asked if he liked to write Joseph Conrad is said to have answered, “I don’t like to write, I like having written.” I borrowed this quote and used it for years without ever taking the time to think about it. It satisfied my own reluctance to sit down and write, and it went hand in hand with my diagnosis of having ADD.
I’ll admit I love having my quota for the day safely tucked away in a notebook, or in my computer, but I have also found that, once the pencils are sharpened, and the coffee zapped to remove the chill, and there is nothing but procrastination left between me and the keyboard I can force myself to begin. The surprise each time is that I work without effort. My own fifteen-minute window of concentration, on good days, expands and the time passes, and the words appearing on my computer the screen run into sentences and paragraphs until I find that the coffee is, once again cold.
I know tomorrow I will have to go through the whole process again, sharpening the pencils, heating up the coffee, looking for excuses not to begin, all the time thinking I won’t know what to say when I sit down. One would think that after going through the process umpteen times I would bypass the preparation and do the work. This doesn’t happen, not with me anyway. The ritual is important, and maybe that’s a good thing. We all have our little writing rituals. Some take longer than others to perform. The important point that I have to keep telling myself is: begin the preparation and it will eventually lead to the work, but I know that if I don’t sharpen the pencils, no words will appear on the screen.