Habits and Rituals in the Biz

Recently, I was at the UCLA campus, hanging out at a diner by the School of Theater, Film and Television, when a group of student actors burst out on the quad, doing a strange dance, shaking their arms, limbering up, hopping around and yelling out a mantra that sounded like “Hooda Hooda Waka Waka Shoop Shoop” (or something of that nature).

So I’m curious if you YOMYOMFers have any kind of exercise, warm up, ritual/ superstitions (i.e. carrying a certain good luck charm), or other prep that you do before the job?  Or is there anything about your environment you need to set up before working?  Justin once told me that when he needs to write, he sometimes goes to Vegas and shuts himself in a hotel where he claims the oxygenated air keeps him awake.  (Sounds more like an excuse to get to Vegas.)

For myself, I need to have my ergonomic set-up, with my ergonomic keyboard, chair and a tablet rather than a mouse. I also keep a Chinese lucky coin under my laptop with the thought that the work I do on it, will be successful.  But that hasn’t proved to be very fruitful.  I suppose if I lived in Japan, I could have had my laptop blessed by a Shinto priest.  Hmmm…anyone know where I can do that?

DHH: When I first started writing, I always tried to get as close to a subconscious place as possible. So I would write in bed, before going to sleep and after awakening, by hand on long yellow legal pads. As word processors came into existence, and I became a parent, this technique grew less practical. Today, I go to my home office around 9 am, and write until maybe 1 or 2 pm. I still do so on long yellow legal pads, using a particular pen (Montblanc large ballpoint with a broad nub, in blue ink).  I have always had really bad handwriting, which has grown worse as the years have gone by. But I’ve come to value its illegibility, which helps my writing remain secret, as if I was doing this for myself alone. By the time I transcribe my scribbles into the word processor, if I come to a passage even I can’t decipher, I figure it probably wasn’t any good anyway, and just move on.

PHILIP: A lot of writers I know like to write in places like coffeehouses, but I need a little more privacy so I prefer to write at home or in the office (and tend to work at night). Don’t have any real rituals but I like to play music when I work–that’s probably the only real constant. And what music I play depends on what I’m working on. For me, it should reflect the mood or feel of what I’m trying to accomplish.

DAVID:  Before I do any job, I’ll take a thinking of is it worth it.  If it’s not, then I will look at the job again and make it worth something… that’s part 1.  Then, I’ll be lazy for many hours or days… call it a meditation period and then I get up from bed… that’s part 2.  Then I pray to dear God that I’ll get done on time… part 3.  That’ll be my ritual before my job.

ROGER:  Right before I go into an audition, I tend to look at a photo of my wife and kids (usually my iphone wallpaper) just to remind myself that if i suck, they will starve.  Also, the proper footwear consistent to the character is key when I’m actually working on a project.  It’s not just about having a shoe that looks right with the wardrobe of the character, it’s also about having something on my feet that feels right.  Something about feeling connected through the shoe and into the ground makes the character come full circle for me.  If not, I feel unanchored and a bit lost.

ALFREDO: Whoa, Roger?!  Kids starving if you blow it?  Man, those better be some incredible shoes.  Me, I’m a boring grind when it comes to work.  Every day I’m up at 6:30 or so, out of the house in a hurry by 7 (don’t want to hear the kids asking where their shoes are or anything like that to clutter my brain), go straight to the coffee shop, write for 1 – 3 hours.  The way I see it, the coffee shop is an unbelievably cheap “office” where, for about five bucks a day (bagel and coffee included!), I can stay as long as I want.  That’s $150/month, with a shared bathroom.  Where are you gonna find that kind of lease deal?   When I don’t get up and write – even if what I write that day is crap – I feel weird.  The day is off, with a whiff of self loathing to it.  Maybe I need to buy some more forgiving shoes…

EMMIE:

I don’t have any work rituals or superstitions, but I do need good lighting in the room or my eyes get tired quickly.  I also get distracted by music, so I like to work in silence (although ambient noise, like 500 cars driving by, is fine).

BEVERLY: This sounds silly but it works.  I’m a nervous type of person (I can’t afford meds) so I use this kind of meditation called EFT to calm myself down.  I tap my forehead, then my temple, then my angel’s kiss, then my chest, and last but least I squeeze the pulse point on my wrist and whisper ‘Peace’.  The entire time I just say out loud how I’m feeling, “I’m feeling angry because… I’m feeling scared because.. etc etc” and you can’t imagine how much your feelings change as you say it out loud.  You start to say things like, “I feel silly because I was angry…”

I do that.

And I pee a lot.  Before I do a presentation or anything like that, I need to pee it all out.

Yeah.

ANSON: I do alotta cleaning. Probably because I want to do something else to distract myself. But once everything is clean, I don’t have any other excuse but to work. But usually during a film shoot, I won’t shave and watch a lotta Family Guy or Simpsons. I’m usually so engaged that I need to distract my mind or else it’ll be hard for me to sleep at night.

One thought on “Habits and Rituals in the Biz

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I loved reading your answers. I’m inspired now to go buy a Mont Blanc Pen and a pair of magic shoes. And Bev, I always need to pee before a presentation too.

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