Guest post: My Writing Rituals by Jonathan Edward Durham

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Risingshadow has an opportunity to feature a guest post by Jonathan Edward Durham, who is the author of Winterset Hollow.

Jonathan Edward Durham
Jonathan Edward Durham

Jonathan Edward Durham was born near Philadelphia in one of many satellite rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth and beyond. After attending the College of William and Mary, where he recieved a degree in neuroscience while also studying literature, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits and turned the page on his career.

He now lives in California with his partner where he writes to bring a voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences. Winterset Hollow, his debut novel, is available everywhere September 2021.

Click here to visit author official website.

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham
Winterset Hollow
by Jonathan Edward Durham

Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction... especially on Addington Isle.

Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book — a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It’s Barley Day... and you’re invited to the hunt.

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Click here to read a review about Winterset Hollow.

Guest post: My Writing Rituals by Jonathan Edward Durham

I get asked fairly often if I have any unusual rituals that I perform before or during the time that I typically write, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about my routine, and why it's so important for me to have one in the first place, because for me…if there was no routine…there wouldn't be any writing either, because I'm just that crazy.

The short answer to that question is 'yes'…I have plenty of rituals…and 'no'…none of them are particularly unusual.  Frankly, my day is nothing but rituals in a manner of speaking, and that's the way I like it, or rather, the way my ever-raging OCD and nigh-unquenchable anxiety like it lol.  It takes a lot for me to find the right headspace in which to write, as my brain is usually swirling with worry and my nerves are in a near-constant state of combustion, but over the years, I've figured out the right combination of tasks and procedures to allow me to access the calmer, more focused state of mind that allows me to sit down for a few hours and be the productive writer that I know I can be day-in and day-out….so that's what I do every… single… day.  No, seriously.

Saying that I've become a creature of habit would be a gross understatement, so instead I'll say that I've become addicted to familiarity in a way that centers me enough to make me feel somewhat normal some of the time.  I mean that sounds a bit less crazy…right?  Every day starts with the same breakfast—a big bowl of oats that I've made the night before and set in the fridge to rest.  Sure, it's boring, but it keeps me from wasting valuable time preparing breakfast, and honestly even the anxiety of deciding what to eat is a bit much for me to handle when I'm barely awake, so I'd just as soon do away with that too if I can.  Don't even get me started on how much I hate menus, but I hate them…a lot.

Anyway, after I've got some food in my system, I spend about an hour letting said food digest while I drink a few cups of coffee and answer any emails that I need to respond to, and then it's time for my usual workout which consists of an hour of intense cardio and an hour of strength training.  Yeah, it's essentially torture, but I simply have to do it…because if I don't burn off all of that energy, it just turns into nervous energy, and I won't be able to focus when it's time to actually get some work done.  Essentially, the routine of exercise is a way to cut my anxiety off at the pass—I'm taking away its fuel source and channeling it towards something productive, which is strategically wise, but also just feels like a win…and everybody likes a win lol.

Then…it's time for waffles.  Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you?  I have waffles literally every single day for lunch, and while that may sound irresponsible, I can assure you that they're actually relatively low-calorie, high-protein waffles that I make with copious amounts of egg whites and Greek yogurt…so they're about as guilt-free as waffles get.  And not only are they totally delicious and a great post-workout meal, but once again, the predictability of knowing that I'm going to have waffles for lunch just puts me at ease, and the follow-through of the feeling of that ritual sates my OCD like few other things do…so waffles are an absolute must.  Hmmm…should I give away my secret recipe?  You guys want the recipe?  Well, do ya?

Now, this might surprise you, but nothing goes better with waffles than frog.  Confused yet?  Good.  Mark Twain once said that if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, you can be sure that it'll be the worst thing that'll happen to you all day…and what he meant by that is that you should get the hard things over with before you have time to let them worry you, and I couldn't agree more.  So, after waffles it's time to run errands, return phone calls, answer any remaining emails, take care of any appointments I have lined up for the day, and eat any other itinerant frogs I happen to find loitering about.  Then, after I've had my fill of horrible, horrible frog…only then when my anxiety has been silenced and my obligations have been checked off and my OCD has been fed by my rituals…can I finally sit down to work.

First thing's first—my laptop gets set up on my coffee table and my television gets turned on.  Yes, believe it or not, I watch TV when I write.  Yes, I know that seems very un-writerly, but the truth is that silence drives me mad, and I need some sort of constant white noise to siphon off my wandering attention.  I need something that's insipid enough that I don't feel like I need to pay it any mind, but interesting enough to entertain me for a few seconds at a time when my brain needs a break, so it's usually some mindless reality show or something of that ilk.  Actually, it's usually some food-centric competition series that I've already seen many times over, because for some reason, that seems to be the perfect blend of intriguing and boring.  And now that the mood has been set, now I can actually get to work.  Well, after a few more rituals anyway ;)

I'll normally spend a few minutes staring at my storyboard to reacquaint myself with the general arc and feel of whatever I'm working on, then once I feel I'm in the right frame of mind, I'll sit down and finally open up the file, but It's not time to bang out any new content just yet…first I must edit.  Before I type even one new word, I always go back and do a quick edit of what I've written the day before.  This is almost like stretching before a race to me—it gets me in the rhythm of things and lets me ease my way back into the story, and I just find that it makes things much easier on me when it does come time to soldier on into the unknown.  And yes, that's always terrifying in its own special way, but it's normally a bit easier with half a day's worth of satisfying rituals in your rear-view…and a belly full of delicious frog.