Monday, March 4, 2013

Rituals & Pouring Chocolate on Stuff

When I was in high school I worked at an ice-cream and pizza place.

And if you think that's funny - I worked at a Hallmark during college. Yep. Mindy, selling greeting cards. It's downright surreal.

Anyway... whenever we had a new ice cream flavor for people to try we let them have a sample before committing to buy. But I had a little trick where I offered to pour chocolate on stuff if they were unsure after a plain taste.

And it totally worked.

It's weird the things that become buried in your skull, popping out at completely inappropriate moments years down the line. I don't know what it was... maybe the fact that there was a counter between us, or that I really wanted the student to fall in love with the book I was giving them, but with that ice-cream joint 10 years in my past I told the kid -

"Try this. If you don't like it bring it back and I'll pour some chocolate on it."

Since the title was THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness, I didn't end up pouring chocolate on anything, but it was a good lesson in a few ways.

1) The kids knew early on that the new librarian was insane.
2) Association can be buried deep, and we're not always in control of what our brain is kicking out.

Because of being in the service industry for most of my life thus far, I wanted the person across the counter to be happy. My brain randomly offered to pour chocolate on something to accomplish that goal and my mouth said HELL YES! GOOD IDEA, BRAIN!

This is why writing rituals work so well. Once those synaptic pathways in our brains have been beaten into well-formed tunnels, our thoughts squeeze through without a lot of voluntary action on our part. This can apply to so many things in life, but it's especially useful for writers.

We're always terrified we're going to fail, that this time the white page will remain blank, or the cursor is just going to blink instead of produce a string of words in its wake. If you can set up a ritual before writing - even a small one - and stick to it, soon you'll find the thoughts flowing from your brain out through your fingertips because both brain & body instinctively know what to do in this situation.

My own ritual is quite simple. I write in my bed, lying down, usually between the hours of 9 and 11 PM. If I'm not working on a WIP at the moment, I use the time for blogging, or reading. My brain knows that I'm either going to write, or absorb writing through reading. Either way, many of the same synapses are firing, and I can count on them to rev right up when I call on them to do so.

The drawback?

I haven't poured chocolate on anything in a damn long time.

3 comments:

Hannah said...

I love it. Chocolate on everything. At least the mind frame. The ritual mind frame . I totally get what you're saying! It's like that comfort blankie you have as a kid. That think you hold onto and get stuff done with. (But in this case it's chocolate. :-). ) Anyway, I love your points! And how well you took my chocolate theme! *high-five* Keep up the AWESOME!

XX, Inky @ Book Haven Extraordinaire

mfantaliswrites said...

What a great post! I hope your students appreciate the crazy librarian they've got.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks Hannah for the awesome blog idea -- I may be hitting you up again :)

Mfan - I think they do? Hard to tell. Sometimes I just get "looks."