Rituals

As you no doubt are aware, baseball season is upon us again.  I am in no way, shape or form a sports fan of any kind.  (I did like basketball at one time but quit watching when Michael Jordan retired the first time, and was still too angry at him for doing that to watch when he came out of retirement briefly. I’ve given up on the game entirely.)  Baseball has never held my interest as it is so infernally slow that to me it’s the sports equivalent of watching paint dry.  But as if to make up for my lack of baseball enthusiasm, I married a man who lives for baseball.  And if that isn’t enough, he’s a Cubs fan and believes whole-heartedly every year that this year is going to be the year they make it to the series.

Because of the arrangement of our house, it is almost impossible for me not to hear any baseball game my husband watches.  That, combined with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, made me start thinking of rituals (because what is a holiday but another form of ritual?).  I remember Wayne Boggs’ ritual was to eat chicken before each game (which I only know because it was featured in a magazine article that included chicken recipes).  I think Sammy Sosa did something-or-other involving kissing his fingers or his cross before he’d go to bat.  I’ve heard other things about never washing socks or other nonsensical matters.

Rituals and baseball segued into thinking of rituals and writers.  I had a college professor who told our class a rather odd ritual Somerset Maugham allegedly used, but as I couldn’t find any verification of its veracity, I’m not going to repeat it here.  I did discover that Victor Hugo wrote nude because that meant he couldn’t leave the house and therefore had to write.  (It seemed to me, though, that would only work if his clothes were all kept somewhere with a time-released lock. Otherwise, what was to stop him from just getting dressed and going out?) Truman Capote supposedly wrote lying down. (Didn’t he write in the days before astronaut pens? Maybe he dictated, or used a pencil, because I don’t think a suspended typewriter would be very easy to use.) Ernest Hemmingway purportedly wrote while standing up until noon, and then got drunk.

I realized that I had a writing ritual, or I used to.  Before I would start writing each day, I would play a game of FreeCell.  This was not, as you may think, a delaying tactic.  Rather, it was to keep in mind what the description of FreeCell claimed, that every game was winnable if you just kept trying.  In writing terms, I translated that to mean there was a way to get around any kind of roadblock I found when I was writing, and I played the game before I started to write to reinforce that idea.

Then came a new computer, with Windows 8.1 (which I hate) and Word 2013 (which I pretty nearly hate, as it’s missing some features I really liked on 2010, and it moved things to different categories on the ribbon, apparently just for the sake of moving things).  But worst of all, there were no games included with Windows 8. Then I learned I could go to the Windows app store and download a free game pack that included FreeCell.  Or so they said.  I have tried to download it numerous times with the same results:  nada.  I forget the exact message they give me, but it boils down to ‘can’t be done’ without any further explanation.  I’ve tried downloading other companies’ versions of FreeCell with no better results.  For some reason my new computer will just not accept FreeCell into its fold.

I still have my old computer with its working version of FreeCell, and I suppose I could have started there with a game and then gone on to the new computer, but it seemed like too much bother. So my ritual died, until baseball and Memorial Day rolled around and started me thinking that perhaps I should start a new ritual.

Since FreeCell is out, I’ve decided to go in another direction. My new ritual will involve eating chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

The new ritual  may actually be better than FreeCell.

 

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Change of Attitude

I had the morning off today (which is always nice, except it means I show up in the afternoon and have to fit in a full day’s work). I decided to devote the morning to finishing getting a manuscript ready for  publishing.  This meant I was adding the front and back matter, and creating the live (or whatever the correct term is) Table of Contents.  I sat there adding the bookmarks to the chapter headings, then putting in the hyperlinks, and mentally grumbling to myself about what a big pain it is you know where. I was making it even worse by thinking about another book I have to do this for that had even more chapters than the one I was working on (100+ vs. today’s 48) and how awful it was going to be to work on that one, and how lucky ‘real’ books authors were not to have to do this.

Then it struck me that this chore was a small price to pay to get what I’d always wanted, a published book.  Yes, it would be nice to be a traditional author who has a publishing house to do all the scut work, but the reality is that was probably never going to happen.  I reminded myself how, one of the last times I sent out a query letter (which I had slaved over, like we all do), I got an automatic rejection email within 10 seconds of my having hit send.  I thought about how I have complete control not only over what I write but what is published.  You have to be a really, really big name author to have that in the traditional publishing world.  (Does anybody else remember how Stephen King came out with a different edition of The Stand several years after it was originally published; it was the version he had wanted published but was not yet well-known enough not to have his editors pare it down to what they considered a more commercial length).  People may grumble a lot about dealing with Amazon, but they have never once that I know of rejected a manuscript that was uploaded on the basis of  ‘not for us’ or told anyone to make it shorter before it could be offered for sale.

So with that change in attitude, I happily finished my Table of Contents.

Then I remembered I hadn’t yet written a blurb.  As the late Gilda Radner (or one of her characters on SNL) used to say, “It’s always something.”