1) Once you have had 6-8 cups of coffee, it’s time to enter the room you’ve designated as a writing area. Upon entering the room, make an inspection of your desk. Even a good desk could be much better than it is. Contemplate how you might improve the look and feel of your desk so that later, when you’re dead and people on a guided tour of your house enter the writing room, they see what a fitting desk it was. To make the desk good, you must make it so that the desk provokes a feeling of smallness, and of humility. There should be no other books in sight of this desk — only the thought of a book: that book which you hope will come out of it.
2) Repeat step one with your stationery. Nobody wants to write on original papyrus, but you shouldn’t be writing on bleached white printer paper, either. The paper should be in range of your desk.
3) How is your chair? No need to say any more here. You understand the goal now, in all its dimensions. Prepare your area for the inspection it will get once you’re dead and gone. You should be tucking your chair beneath the desk now, and everything should be in reach.
4) Stop. Go to the fridge and eat something while standing up in the kitchen, leaving your project to wait alone in the writing room, then close the door to your writing room and forget about the project completely. Take a nap.
5) Lie down for the nap and take some moments to consider what it is you’re doing: nobody wrote anything while sleeping their life away. Re-enter the writing room. That moment where you tried to give up and sleep, but you couldn’t? That’s what the coffee was for.
6) Write something other than whatever it is you think you want to write, or what you’d intended to write.
7) Something cryptic is good to begin with, but writing dreams gets you nowhere. Writing about an animal sometimes works. Assume a biblical tone if necessary. Write in the imperative mode. Even, or especially, the tiniest actions and decisions in life deserve inspection. Tell a story of how an animal did something very simple. The deer ate grass.
8) Once you’ve begun writing on your stationery, in your chair, at your desk, go on until the thrill seems like it’s about to fade. If you wait until the thrill has begun to fade in earnest, you are setting yourself up for a moment of bleakness and depression. You must stop writing exactly before the thrill of the thought, or paragraph you’re working on, has begun to fade. It’s nice to begin writing tomorrow knowing you have the tail end of a thrill that has yet to be squelched.
9) By now you should have at least produced something worth keeping. You should always want to keep something.
10) One time I saw a ghost. I’ve thought about this moment time and time again. I’ve seen two UFOs, and both I know were not hallucinations, but the ghost, which I saw when I was in seventh grade, is the only one that really sticks with me. I don’t know what tarot cards and candles and prayers do, or don’t do. The ghost, however, was real, and changed how I live. Writing is not unlike what it felt like to see that ghost hovering over my bed in the dormitory on the lake. Writing is not unlike listening to an obscure station on the radio and writing down what it says. Maybe you’d prefer a list of writing rituals that do not, in the end, ask you to believe in some supernatural or deeply subliminal radio listening experience not unlike going 10 seconds back in time, just 10 seconds, while driving in the middle of the night, alone, in the middle of nowhere. The key is to cause just one other person to remember, for the rest of his or her life, that they once traveled through time with you.
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received his MFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville and is currently living in Spokane, Washington. A Key to Treehouse Living
is his first book.