Bring Me the Mojo by Deb Gail

Instead of writing about keeping secrets this week, I’m going to share my secret writing ritual. A secret so secretive that I have only shared it with one other writer who has been a NYT’s bestseller and while she didn’t use the secret while writing that book, she tells me she swears by it now.

So here it is…

After sending my kids off to school, I always sip coffee and squirrel around on the computer for awhile. I check The Deb site, I check e-mail, check a few other sites, check my website stats, check e-mail again (I’m sure if my book were already out I’d check my Amazon ranking), and about three e-mail checks after that point, after I’ve completely disgusted myself with wasting this much time and energy, and vowing I’ll stop all this computer surfing tomorrow… I go for a run to clear my head and then I come back, drink some water, make myself a double espresso and head out to my isolation hut (no computer access or phone line) in the back yard to write.

I turn the knob with my elbow and kick the door open juggling my laptop, my cell phone (just in case there’s an emergency with one of my kids), my coffee, my notebook I carry everywhere and keep on my bedside table at night and sometimes a book or a couple of grocery receipts I’ve often scribbled indecipherable stuff on. Side note about the hut: the hut is about the size of a garden shed and has nothing in it except my writing stuff and things I love, my Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s and We Can Do It posters. My bulletin board full of postcards, including Andy Warhol’s “The world fascinates me,” and Michaelangelo’s David (most of that amazing butt), my Marilyn Monroes, my assorted Leonardo Da Vinci sketches, quotes like: “Well-behaved women rarely make history” and Emily Dickinson’s” Dwell in possibility,” some old floral hatboxes I bought at an estate sale, an enormous dictionary and thesaurus, my ribbons and bibs from my road races and a desk and a bookshelf and a soft chair and a little wooden stool with a candle, a decoupaged box of Michaelangelo’s famous hands from the Sistine Chapel and a little brass Indian lady statue (given to me by our Indian neighbors in New Hampshire many years ago) that represents success. Anyway, I almost always drop something and vow I’ll stop juggling so much and make two trips or just bring less stuff with me next time and then I turn on the light and open my laptop and open whatever document I’m working on (this is key).

Then I walk over to the little stool and kneel down and light the candle with my Anyone Want a Doobie matches with the picture of a nerdy 1950’s looking guy smoking a purple bong that I bought for my husband as a joke because he’s so not the pot-smoking type (neither am I) but he’s more outwardly not so and he was so worried someone would find them in the house, he threw them away and I recycled them for my office. So I light the candle with those matches and then I bow down and plant my hands firmly on the earth and thank God (although it doesn’t have to be God–I’m really not a very religious person–and actually now that I think about it could be the universe or whatever) but I thank something or someone for my health and the health of my children (I name them one by one) and my husband, and then I offer my day to others who are suffering more than I am. Sometimes it’s specific people and sometimes it’s just others in the universe. And then I ask who or whatever to fill me full of love, compassion, patience, hope, trust, balance, honor, endurance, humility etc, (this list changes daily depending how life is going for me and the qualities I feel I’m lacking) and then I ask for the wisdom and courage and passion to be the most amazing me and please continue to point me in the direction of my dreams and then I say, I believe in your infinite wisdom and am open to whatever you may have to teach me and then, bring me the mojo.

Then I sit up Japanese style and I squeeze everything in my body tight and release and tighten and release, then I inhale for a count of seven and hold my breath for seven and exhale for seven. I do that two more times and then I repeat Saht Nam (Saht on the inhale and Nam on the exhale) over and over again until I feel my mind emptying and focusing on Saht Nam. This lasts anywhere from two minutes to ten (depending on how restless I’m feeling). After that I bring my hands up to prayer position at my heart and do three Oms out loud and I bow forward one more time and say I am strong, I am healthy, I am healed and I do a spinal twist on both sides and a head stand for a count of thirty and a downward facing dog and a backbend and then I hang forward and slowly roll up and reach my arms overhead and ask for the mojo again (can never have enough mojo). After that (which really only takes about 10-15 minutes), I walk over to the desk and because the document is already open, leaving me no excuse to squirrel around on my laptop, I sit down and write.

And that’s it.

As I read over this, I fear I might have exposed too much (I guess that’s the nature of sharing secrets). And I worry that I might leave you with the impression that I’m an earthy granola New Age kind of person (not that I have anything against granola or New Agers) but it isn’t me. While I do eat mostly organic and whole grains and vegetarian, I also drink coffee and red wine and I wear high heels and make-up, and while I do yoga and have taught yoga to friends and family, honestly I’m more about the workout aspect of yoga than the spiritual one, sort of have my eye on one those hot yoga bodies featured in the NYT’s a few years back and by the time I get to shavasana I’m often making lists of things I have to do in my head. But, in spite of all that, there is something earthy and spiritual in this ritual and I believe in it because as much as writing is about doing the work and sitting your butt in the chair and writing for either a certain number of hours or a certain number of pages a day, for me when it’s really cooking, there’s an element of magic involved and this is my way of conjuring up that magic. (Although, I have to admit, I also believe in the double espresso.)

Any writing secrets you’d like to share?

22 Replies to “Bring Me the Mojo by Deb Gail”

  1. You may be my soul sister. Same ritual: waste time on net, walk, cell phone everywhere because of kids, Yoga to quiet the mind and limber the body. The only difference is I mouth the word, “om.” Being an uptight New Englander (I would so be afraid of having that matchbook in the house too!), I can’t actually say “om” aloud. I will have to add to my ritual the blesssings. That’s a beautiful way to live.

  2. I love your writing ritual and it’s so nice and centered. Perhaps a writing shed is in order–my computer is at my desk in the middle of the kitchen which is all part of an open-air floor plan, which means if the kids are around, I’m in the middle of their hoopla, and when they aren’t, guaranteed the dogs (especially the barking one, but also the other one who loves to lick me all day long but she eats poo so her saliva is repulsive even though I love the dog I just can’t go there) and the cat (who likes to walk across the keyboard) and the parrot (who makes loud, repetitive, deliberately annoying noises that cause me to grind my molars) will create all sorts of commotion, and so at times it’s mighty hard to concentrate but the flip side of this is it has enabled me to concentrate at times when most sane people could not. But still, a shed–lovely idea 😉 . And you’re in good company with that shed–I recently interviewed a National Book Review winner for a freelance piece I’m writing, and he, too, has a shed–a very spartan shed in which I suspect you’d need to wear down coats and mittens, which would make the keyboard a tricky thing to master…

  3. Amy, I do think we’re soul sisters for many reasons (except for the match thing LOL)and the saying om aloud is very healing (according to my yoga teacher) and not just aloud but loud. Thanks for stopping by and did you notice the link?

    Jenny, I’m so relieved that you (and Amy) didn’t think this whole thing was really weird. I was a little worried about that. But I guess a lot of writers have their rituals… as for writing in isolation I get at least twice as much work done in the hut as when I used to write in the house. Oh and my hut has a little electric baseboard heater and since the space is so small it gets very toasty in there.

  4. By following our instincts and using trial-and-error, I think we all eventually learn what works best for us. Yet it’s not surprising that most rituals are based on the spiritual — with ideas, thoughts and words all gifts! A lovely post to begin the week, Gail.

  5. I don’t think your riual sounds weird at all. I’m going to go down to my laptop and try some of it out. I’m a “workout” yogi as well (Baron Baptiste tapes) and am now thinking maybe I’m more focused when I wake up and do yoga before pretending to write. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Gail, I loved this! I laughed out loud about the matchbook cover. Your writing hut sounds divine. I’m already wondering how to turn a corner of my garage into a writing nook.

    Your ritual is charming, and I love the incorporation of the blessings. I need to do that, I think.

    (Right now my writing ritual is little else but, “You’ve got two hours…now, GO!” Which is really stressful and not always productive!)

  7. Thanks for saying that, Tish and I LOVE Baron Baptiste. The newset yoga class I’ve been going to is taught by a woman who trained with him and she has an AMAZING body!

    Thanks, Jess! When you come to Madison I’ll give you a tour, even show you the matches!

  8. I’m bad at having a set routine- but I love the idea of having one. Thus I may tell people that I do what you do- it sounds so much better than admitting I wing it.

  9. Along the lines of Eileen’s brilliant plan, I actually tell people I do yoga far more often than I do it. Last time would have been, um, two weeks ago. But my older son has started doing yoga and I did give birth to him…

  10. Maybe we should do a week of “What I tell people I do, but don’t actually do all the much” posts. I say I cook dinner more for my family than I do (tonight is thai take-out).

  11. Gail!!!!!

    I started making this comment this morning but got big-time sidetracked.

    I LOVE your ritual. I have been struggling to focus lately and have been thinking about creating one–mine’s got the internet surfing/emailing/coffee part but is missing the rest.

    Also, I have numerous sites bookmarked, many catalogues and a couple of books, all of sheds because I DREAM of having a little writing shed just like the one you describe. I’ve dreamed of this for years and years but in downtown Toronto it’s tough to get a yard big enough to put one in.

    Just yesterday my husband and I went on an Art Walk in our neighborhood and went to some studios that were converted garages and now I’m also dreaming of converting our garage. Never mind the cars and the mounds of junk we store out there…

    Do you think your ritual might work for me without the run? I can’t run.

  12. Yes, Danielle, I do think it would work without the run (that’s partly just another procrastination activity) and my addiction to running. I think part of the key (for me) is the isolation… years ago, I used to write in a closet (a large closet!) and was very productive there!

  13. I LOVE this post!

    I go down to the beach to write on Tuesdays and Thursdays — there’s no place in the world that feels more spiritual to me.

    (Sadly, it’s raining today, so I’m in my office, also nice, but not quite the same.)


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