Useful Rituals

November 10, 2017

I’ve been thinking about useful rituals, and trying to embrace some that make me better at what I do.

By “useful ritual” I mean anything that one does that is habitual, formalistic, not necessarily directly productive, and which provides a sense of direction, benefit, or improvement. For some people, this is a morning coffee (go caffeine!). For others, exercise or yoga or walking the pooches.

For example, author Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art (a most excellent book), talks about starting his writing day by invoking the muse: “The last thing I do before I sit down to work is say my prayer to the Muse. I say it out loud, in absolute earnest. Only then do I get down to business.” He uses a passage from Homer’s The Odyssey that goes like this:

O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stray grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope — for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse. . . .

That’s a bit highfalutin for my tastes (also, as a vegan, the “meat” bit is unpalatable). But I can see where Pressfield is going with it.

So, I’ve begun starting my writing day with, “OK, Muse. Lay it on me. Let’s get some words out.” Not quite Homer, but the intention is there, and that’s the point.

Another useful ritual I have: closing the three rings on my Apple Watch activity tracker.

And another: planting at least one thing in the garden every week.

The most important one for me right now? Writing every day, come heck or high water.

So think about useful rituals this week. Which do you already have? And is there one or two that you’re happy to add in to your daily life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.