For many years, immediately following the completion of many book manuscripts, it was my custom to clear off my desk and clean out my office once the latest effort was in the mail to New York.
Ritual? Ceremony? Whatever the label, it marked an occasion. My manuscript notes and drafts were tidied away. I saw the surface of my desk again. In effect, I was clearing away one story and cast of characters to open the gate for new ideas to come through.
This January, I completed book 3 of THE FAELIN CHRONICLES and emailed it to my editor. These three YA novels moved me fully into the electronic age. This is the first contract I’ve ever worked on that didn’t involve a paper copy of my manuscript, usually a ream or more of pages neatly printed and stacked in a manuscript box, prepped for mailing.
On the positive side, I’ve saved a big chunk of money on paper, printer ink, and flat-rate postage.
On the negative side, the ritual of cleaning out the office hasn’t happened in quite a while. Not, in fact, since I moved to this house. Of course the move itself was a scramble, a seemingly Herculean effort in 100+ degree heat, and it put me so behind on my deadline that I crawled into this house, left the boxes untouched, and wrote like the furies.
But instead of parading to the post office and waving bon voyage to a heavy stack of paper, I clicked a button. The ritual was lost, sucked into the ether of the Internet.
Something important in my writing routine is now lacking. Two novels have been produced in this office that I’m barely acquainted with. I can’t remember when I’ve seen the top of my desk. My files have yet to be organized. My manuscript notes lie in chaos. My reference books are scrambled and stacked in hazardous heaps.
How can a new idea possibly enter this environment? The gates are grown over with the vines of clutter, saying (in effect), “New Idea, you’re not welcome here.”
It’s time to regain the ritual. I’ll have to create a new ceremony to replace the preparation of the manuscript box. I need the closure. It will force me to resume the good habits of cleaning and clearing.
And it will remind me that my months of hard work on each book have culminated in a tangible result, of which I can be proud.