By Candlelight

Talking to my students recently about writing rituals, and how you can routinize them to get quickly into the right headspace. When I was in grad school, I would get up at 4 in the morning, when it was nice and quiet and dark out, make myself a cup of tea, go to my computer, light a candle, and open the file for Bodies in Motion. That was my routine — I didn’t have to work on it right away, but opening the file generally meant that I actually found myself working almost immediately.

Now my routine is a little more challenging, as I’m navigating spending time with Kevin in the evening after the kids are down, at least sometimes, and getting them up and to the bus in the morning. It’s hard to do both, although as they get older, that gets easier — I think next year, they may actually not even need me for the morning sequence. I think Kavi’s almost old enough to make sure she and Anand get dressed and breakfasted and out the door on time (it’s the ‘on time’ bit that they’re not quite up for yet, but they’re getting closer every day). I’d still like to give them a kiss goodbye, but if they’re just swinging by my study to collect that on their way out the door, it’s much less of a work interruption than now, when I have to stop for 30 minutes to get them through the morning sequence.

But I *have* started lighting candles again. I don’t know why it helps, but it helps, especially in a snowy Chicago winter. Here is my office, full of green plants (and a humidifier) and warm candlelight. I light a stick of incense most mornings, the way my parents often did before guests arrived. I’m still working on opening the file and dropping into actual writing — most mornings, there’s e-mails and FB and such that feel urgent, that get in the way of writing. Trying to make the mental shift over to ‘write first.’ It’s coming, I think. Some days, I manage it. The candles do help.

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