One Small Candle: A Writer’s Ritual


This post comes from my super cool new friend Andi. Ask her about her book project. Follow her here or here.

It’s not that complicated really, this writing ritual of mine, but it serves me well, keeping this time of day sacred, reserved, set aside for the different.

It begins before it really begins with me accomplishing the tasks that – by nature or habit – plague my mind.  I clear emails and post updates. I schedule meetings and tweets. I clear my desk and my to-do list. I need a little space to breath deep and let myself turn inward.

Then, I light a candle. Just a little votive in the wrought-iron holder my dad gave me for my birthday. I might stare at it for a while, letting its vapor become prayers and meditation. Candles remind me of church, even though the church traditions of which I have been a part aren’t really candle-friendly. There’s just something holy about flame writ small.

I put my coffee up on the right-hand side of my antique wood desk and have a pen, preferably the one my friend Jansen made me, beside my keyboard. I sit down, hearing the chair beneath me settle in, a lesson for me, even as I trust that it can carry the weight of me and my words.

Next, I breathe. I let my breath find the corners of my lungs that usually hold shape uselessly, always empty. I push all that is held and cramped inside me out into the world and watch it mix with the candle’s heat – more prayers that I let go.

I might read a poem – Terrance Hayes’ Wind in a Box is my latest choice – and then copy a line into the journal that Kristin gave me for teaching her daughter about story.  Then, I let the words flow from pen to page . . . until they flow so fast that my only way to capture them is by typing.  I push aside my journal and go to keys. . . . so lovely that we call them keys as that is what they are – the way to open ideas.

It’s so easy in our busyness and hurry to let even our passion become normal, to lose sight of the gifts we have been given, the time we have been blessed to own.  For me, this simple ritual circumscribes this space and this time, just as the glow of this candle bounds itself to the work of lighting only its sphere . . . for this time, in this space.

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