Widows and Orphans

I have a confession to make: there is something I do prior to beginning a new writing project that is totally unnecessary, but that I do out of purely ritualistic fervor, that I do because I've been doing it since I first began writing, and that I do because it signals to my brain: You are about to write.  You are about to begin.  You are about to travel a path you have traveled many times before and love well, but is exciting and frightening for all that.  Gather yourself in.  Take a moment.

Do I light a candle?

Do I burn incense?

Do I play solitaire, like Maya Angelou?

Do I take a walk?

Do I crack my knuckles?

Do I pray?

Breathe deeply?


I practice Widow and Orphan Control.

Widow and Orphan Control, as I'm sure you know, is that handy little feature in word processing that keeps single lines of text  from straggling, forlorn and alone, at the bottom of a page, or shivering naked and lost at the top of the next.  Widow and Orphan Control is designed to keep your pages looking square and sound, parented and married, and it's easy enough to make it a default setting, so that every time you begin An Exciting New Document you needn't worry about Dickensian Strays and Impoverished Dowagers.  One click, at most two, and, summarily defaulted, you never have to think about them again.  They simply vanish from your concern.  You do not have to meet them every morning, or every time you prepare to embark on your uncertain journey.

But . . . I like to.

Beginning An Exciting New Document, I always choose double- or single-spacing, and then navigate to Widow and Orphan Control and consciously Choose to Bring My Sentences Home, Love.

There is something immensely satisfying about this.

It's as if I'm saying: The Road may be Long, the Way may be Hard, Dear Words, but We are in this Together, and I will Not Abandon you.

It's as if I'm saying: Come into the Fold, and we'll hash it out As Best We Can.

It's as if I'm wedding myself to my work.  Sealing.


Silly little gesture.  Unnecessary.

But necessary.

"Come, children.  I do."

May you have a blissful writing week, my friends.



We all have our weird rituals. I like lighting candles and burning incense, but only at night. During the day, there are certain places I can and can't go, and if I'm just way too wired/anxious/crazy and have the time, I drive to Galveston and write at a cafe there by a window so I can stare out at the water. Or if I have less time, I go to Clear Lake park and play like a child on the swings. Then I get back down to work.

At least your ritual involves opening a computer file . . .
Barbara Sissel said…
I loved this post and thought of how long I will fiddle to have exactly, precisely 25 lines to the page....

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