Congratulations to Sharyn Inzunza for Winning the March 2015 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)
The Challenge was to write an essay that answered this question:
Do you have any unusual writing habits? What are they and how do they help (or hurt) you?
Drawing on her national and cultural identity, Sharyn explains a daily ritual that has become closely interwoven with her writing. Enjoy her winning submission.
I’m on a Writing Roll — It Must Be Time for a Cup of Tea
By Sharon Inzunza
I call it the punctuation of my writing soul. It’s when I am clicking away on the keyboard, the ideas are flowing, and the words are aligning like perceived magic.
Then, it’s time for a cup of tea.
Tea, for me, and I would boldly state, for so many Australians, and, of course, in all humble recognition, the citizens of the United Kingdom, is intrinsic to who I am. I do not remember not drinking tea. We drank it with our meals (with the green aluminum pot at the end of the table) and for morning and afternoon tea. No pretenses, just a good cup of tea.
Culturally, it services so many of our often unspoken needs: an understood offering for a friend at the door, a soother for stress and sadness, a drink offered at social gatherings — or taken in solitude. Tea is our thirst-quencher on a scorching day (hot, of course, not iced).
Tea fuels my writing, in a sense. I am programmed to stop for morning and afternoon tea (breaks imprinted on the Australian psyche). But it also quenches my writing brain. I don’t stop for a “cuppa” when I’m stuck for the next thing to say. I stop when I’m on a roll, almost as a way to reel in my racing thoughts. I walk upstairs, put on the electric jug, and make a cup of tea: hot, bag-in-strong, and with a dash of milk.
With my cup of tea, which I have to drink kettle-hot, I return to my desk and reread what I’ve written. My thoughts seem to align by the end of the cup, readying me for the next paragraphs. In the warmth of that ancient and culturally-valued drink — like an unassuming companion — I write again, moving forward, creating with clarity, my stories and content.
Sometimes I wonder if I am doing the right thing, relying on the power of tea. After all, I stop in full writer mode, like some madman has flicked on a switch, sending me trance-like in search of hot water and tea bags. I wonder sometimes if it is a distraction, maybe causing me to lose precious momentum and time.
But I ignore the doubts, because I recognize the benefits of stopping for a cup of tea. I am turning to something that has soothed me my whole life. It’s a beverage with the power to order the cacophony of ideas racing through my mind and out my fingers, providing a higher-level punctuation in my writing mind.
I write every day. If I’m lucky, I write the entire day. In the quietness of my office, with just me, the soft clicks of the keyboard, and my internal voice, I frequently pause for a cup of tea: as programmed, as needed, as desired.