Writers and Superstitions

I used to believe in all sorts of superstitions when I was a kid. I threw salt over my shoulder if I spilled it, I avoided cracks in the sidewalk and walking under ladders, and a black cat anywhere in my vicinity made me nervous. I've outgrown all of those fears, but there are still some odd little rituals I follow. For instance, when an e-mail I've been waiting for finally pops into my inbox, I usually will open one or two other e-mails first, both to prepare myself for whatever news it contains and to try to psych out the universe: "See? It's not that important. I don't even care! It can wait until after I look at today's deals on geeky T-shirts."

Then there are some of my writer's quirks: I need a particular pen for taking notes and editing by hand (Uniball Vision Elite, blue-black ink, fine tip). I save and backup my work obsessively—but that's really just a good idea, for everyone. And, because of my novels, if I come across a U.S. quarter featuring Puerto Rico, I have to keep it. Can't spend it, nope. I have three or four of them now; in fact, I wear a silver proof of the PR territories quarter on a chain; it doesn't have any talismanic properties like Uncle Scrooge's Number 1 dime or anything, but I wanted to mark my first published novel in a special way, and I wasn't ready to commit to a tattoo.

Since today is Friday the 13th, I decided it would be fun to ask thirteen other authors about the superstitions and rituals they follow in their writing and personal lives. Some of their answers may surprise you!

Beth Revis, Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3): This one's weird, but... I think spiders are good luck. When I was a little girl, I heard the story of how Robert the Bruce saw a spider spinning a web and, despite the fact that it kept being torn down, the spider kept trying, and that inspired the Bruce to not give up. Ever since then, I've really liked spiders, and if I'm worrying about something, spiders are my sign to not give up, or to attempt something that feels impossible.
Lydia Kang, Control: Sometimes I'll tie on a string bracelet with a charm to symbolize the book I'm working on. When the string finally wears down and breaks, I know that many months have gone by and usually, that first draft has been finished! If you ever meet me, you might see me wearing several bracelets for different books in different stages.
Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink: The computer that I wrote Not a Drop to Drink on had to be retired, but I popped some of the keys off and kept them. My fingers had worn away the lettering on most of them, and there were grooves in quite a few of the keys where my fingers fit. I resisted updating my laptop for a long time because I didn't want to be separated from those keys that had typed the novel that landed me.
Lissa Price, Enders (Starters #2): I wear a dzi bead on a bracelet that helps me focus on my current writing goals.
Bethany Hagen, Landry Park: I tend to be superstitious about titles—I'm worried that if I give the book a real title before it's finished that it will curse it somehow. Or maybe that's just because I'm terrible at coming up with titles!
Lenore Appelhans, The Memory of After: I don't have writerly superstitions, but I will not look in a mirror in a dark room because of Bloody Mary. I'm a bit freaked out now for thinking about it at all. *shivers*
Peggy Eddleman, Sky Jumpers: I don't write at my desktop computer. I answer emails, blog, edit, pay bills, and a million other little things, but I can't write there. Words don't come, and if they do, they end up being deleted. Sometimes I tell myself it's the lack of natural light or the fact that my desk faces a blank wall. Mostly, though, it's because me and my laptop have a special writing connection. When my fingers are on that keyboard—no matter where in the world I happen to be—my brain knows to kick out words that are keepers.
K.D. McEntire, Lightbringer series: I don't have much in the way of superstitions when it comes to writing. I feel thankful whenever I have time to work, so I tend to jump right in. That said, there is a period of time each year (football season) when I'm given a weekly 4–5 hours at a stretch to work. Bless the man who invented Sunday Football, for my husband and sons go to Grandpa's house to watch the Chiefs, leaving me to get work done for a change. I like to buy a Panera chicken salad sandwich, a diet Dr Pepper, and I sit in the same spot with the same throw blanket. Then I crank. I am very cranky when robbed of those Sundays during the fall. I also refuse to buy lottery tickets unless I'm having a "good kid day." If I've yelled at the small ones I won't buy a ticket. No bad karma on lottery ticket days. ;-D
Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars: I have a tough time starting a book until I have a title I love. For me it informs so much—the tone, the overarching theme, etc. I guess this ties in with my naming obsession in general.
Alethea Kontis, Hero: Okay, so here's my only writerly superstition. I got this from Sherrilyn Kenyon, and I hesitate to even mention it because I was raised by a Greek and a Catholic to whom superstition is ritual and just How We Live Our Lives. To speak something aloud—good or bad—is to tempt Fate...thus all the spitting, which is like knocking wood for good luck. Sherri says that "A writer on deadline never dies." When I told my mom this, she freaked out and spat...a lot. But I do believe this, despite knowing that deadlines exist everywhere and writers are immune to death no more than any other person on this earth...but when Sherri originally told me this, it rang with that certain air of truth I've never forgotten. Maybe that's why I didn't finish my manuscript before Dragon Con? Who knows...perhaps if I had, that fall would have been a lot worse...
Jenn Reese, Mirage (Above World #2): I love to buy myself a little something for each new novel—usually an inexpensive piece of jewelry from Etsy—but I can't buy the item until I'm halfway through writing the book. The jewelry is both a reward for making it that far and a promise to finish. When the draft is done, it becomes a talisman. I'll put it on again when it's time for revisions, copyedits, and proofs to help me get back to the right emotional place for the book.
Christian Schoon, Zenn Scarlet: So, we've got lotsa cats in our house. My wife has instructed me not to state the number publicly, lest we attract the attention of authorities. Vague clue: seven lg. litter boxes in service at all times, barely enuf. Anyway, if I get a cat lying on my lap during writing sessions (see above re: # of cats and thus high likelihood of cat-to-lap occurrence), I can't gently urge it to go lie someplace else (i.e., stand up or toss it to floor) until I finish the chapter I'm writing/editing/staring at vacantly w/ fingers poised. What'll happen if I violate the cat-overheating-waggly-bits area? I shudder to think. Anyway, that's my irrational fear and I'm stickin with it. (The thuggish cat currently on my lap looks up and gives me the "damn straight, skippy" look.)
Janet Edwards, Earth Girl: I’m not sure if I’m the only author who suffers from this, or if there are whole armies of us out there with the same secret fear, but at first I was a bit worried about telling people I was getting a book published. It seemed a bit unbelievable, and I had a weird idea that someone would suddenly leap out from behind me and say it was all a practical joke. Despite the fact the joke would now involve multiple publishers and a global internet conspiracy, I still tend to give a furtive look round for the practical joker before I risk telling people I’m an author.

Do you have any superstitions or rituals? Tell us about them in the comments!


Rebecca Gomez said...

These are great!

Okay, here's one from me. At some point my kids brought home two little toy spiders. Large enough to freak me out if they were real, but small enough to set at the top of my mac's screen. I've kept them there for years. They're not good-luck charms or anything, but they feel like a permanent part of my writing zone. It would not be complete without them.

Willa Blair said...

I don't think I have any writerly superstitions, but I just hit 1300 tweeps on Friday the 13th, so should I be worried? I'm not sure how to make a superstition out of that, and if you have any ideas - don't tell me! *g*

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