After you spend a few hours hanging out at the beach, you can’t help notice how everyone gets into the water differently.
Some swimmers love to dive into the cold surf while others stand just beyond the reach of the waves gazing at the sea or inch their way forward slowly.
What you come to realize if you watch different swimmers long enough is that the process of preparing to swim is crucial to swimming.
Those few brief moments galloping into the waves or gazing at the water, summoning the courage to go deeper into the chilly waves, are part of each swimmer’s private ritual.
In those moments each swimmer tells himself that he is truly a swimmer.
It's the time when a swimmer envisions herself diving into the water, swinging her arms and kicking her legs, defying gravity to slice through the waves into deeper water.
Each of us has our own private ritual that we perform before entering the water.
In the privacy of our own thoughts we summon the courage to enter a world different from the one that we’re familiar with.
We stop at the water’s edge and dig our toes into the sand, or we pause to tighten our suit around our waist before dancing into the waves, or we stoop down to splash the water as it rushes into shore, and these rituals help us leave behind the solid earth for the uncertainty of water.
In other words, rituals serve as bridges that let us cross from the known into the unknown.
Writers, like swimmers, rely on rituals, too, to step into the unknown deep of their imaginations.
Some writers start out their day by walking to focus their thoughts on the work waiting for them at their desks.
Others open a favorite book of poems and re-enter the world of their imagination with the help of another writer’s language and imagery.
Still others prefer music or silent meditation.
Before sitting down to write each morning, I prepare a pot of coffee, pausing to smell the coffee grinds before spooning them into the pot, and savor the taste of that first hot cup before picking up my pen to write.
There’s something magical about this ritual of coffee-making before leaving the world behind for another that opens up as my hands dart across the keyboard of my computer.
It’s almost as if the ritual itself is like a mysterious door, one that we create for ourselves and which lets us pass from one world into another, a private sanctuary, our personal passageway into the unknown.
I may take only a sip of coffee before beginning work, but it’s enough to help me take that first step into the water.
What about you? Do you have a ritual that helps you begin writing? When you get a chance, why not let us know how you get into the water each day?
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