Creating Order Out of Chaos

I’m sure every writer has their own set of rituals. They’re good excuses to not write. (I’m not one of those people who believe either in muses or writer’s block – you either write or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s because you chose not to, and the only way to get anything done is to sit down and actually write something. It’s as simple as that. Even if it’s crap – writer’s block is an excuse to not do anything; waiting for the muse to strike means you’ll rarely get anything done.)

I have a lot of rituals, and it occurred to me the other day that they’re to create order from chaos. Much like ancient tribes had their rain dances and their ritual sacrifices to appease the gods – to make sense out of natural cataclysms about which they had absolutely no comprehension, my most prominent one is similar. I have no functioning knowledge of how computers work, other than that they do. When they break, it’s incomprehensible to me, and the only thing I can do is start and restart them until they start cooperating again. And so, whenever I restart my computer, I cannot do anything else until I’ve checked all of my normal programs, making sure iTunes, Firefox, MSWord, MSExcel, and a handful of others, start up normally. It’s a fairly senseless ritual, as I know that the odds of anything being wrong are pretty slim. Yet I check. (Yes, this is pretty OCD-like behavior, but I doubt that I’d qualify for the *actual* disorder.) It takes me about ten minutes to do all of it (I’ve become faster over time), and after that, I can settle down and get on with whatever.

Anyway, my writing rituals. Mostly, they’re just a form of procrastinating. I really don’t have any games on the computer (seriously; other than the standard games that come with Windows, the only thing I’ve got on here is World of Goo ). When I’m in serious procrastination mode, I tell myself that I have to play (and win) a game of Freecell, a game of Hearts, and a game of websudoku. Once that’s done, I can get on with writing (Note: by then, I’ve usually thought of something else with which to procrastinate).

But they also create order from chaos, and there is something intensely soothing about that to me. Not so much Hearts, but definitely the organization in Freecell, and all the numbers in sudoku – it starts out as just as a jumble, and by the end, there is order and reason. When I’m stressed, I can play game after game of sudoku, and I end up relaxed. I’m pretty damn good at it by now (1377 puzzles solved on hard since last September, average time 6:01, best time 2:26).

I think I was making a point at the beginning of this blog. We all want to make sense of our worlds. We want there to be meaning and order; chaos is ugly and scary. It’s the black abyss we don’t want to face. Instead, we put a face on that monster, on that volcano, and call it our god. To appease it, we throw someone in once every couple of months, and so we please our volcano god.

Writing can be like that, too. It’s an empty page, devoid. It’s that same abyss. To create order, we make marks upon it, marks that are letters and words and sentences and stories. And by the end – there is order, rhyme, reason.

As writers, we help to make sense of that abyss.


1 Comment

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One response to “Creating Order Out of Chaos

  1. Joe Union

    I am impressed at your Sudoku skills.* I play on my cell phone. I usually play “easy” but when I am feeling brave will try the “medium.”

    *As well as your writing skills.

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