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5 Superstitions Journalists and Writers Believe In

By IleneSpringer 01/13/2015

US News

I don't know any group of professionals more superstitious than journalists and writers.  This doesn't apply only to myself, but to some famous writers (more famous than me), as well.  Here are five top superstitions and rituals that writers engage in.  If you're a writer, please tell me what you do or don't do for luck.

1. Don't talk about it

I will never talk about what article I'm currently writing on or for what publication--until the article is accepted by the editor.  Why?  Talking about what you're writing is certain death for the article.  It's happened more than once to me. The first time was years ago when my young daughter asked me what I was writing for The Boston Globe.  I told her it was on liposuction. Within days: rejection.   Since then, whenever I've told someone what I'm working on at the moment, it gets rejected.  So, now I'm mum on what I'm doing.  In fact, I'm even getting nervous about this article because as I'm writing it, I'm telling you the subject.  

Know what I mean?

2. Engaging in certain rituals

Touching certain objects for luck

I have to go turn on my computer the first thing as soon as I awake, or I feel I won't be able to write.  Maybe I'll run to the toilet first, but usually I have to hear that intoxicating iMac jingle the first thing.  

This is nothing compared to what I just found out about American novelist and short story writer John Cheever.   Apparently, every morning, Cheever would don a suit and tie and go down the elevator in his building as if he was going to work.  But he would then descend to his building's basement storage area, strip down to his underwear and write until midday.  Then he would put his suit back on, go up to his apartment, eat lunch and then return to his basement "office," strip down again and write for the rest of the day.


3. Eating or drinking certain foods

Chocolate seems to help me write a good article.  But, then, chocolate seems to help me with everything.  But some writers develop strange tastes for things and can't write without them.   

German playwright Friedrich Schiller somehow became used to the smell of rotten apples as he worked. Claiming that he couldn’t write without the smell of rotten apples, he kept several in his desk drawer.

3. The magic number 12

Many people have lucky numbers and others avoid unlucky ones, such as the number 13.  As far as writing goes, I discovered that the lucky number for me was 12.  This was back years ago when I was sending out queries (article proposals) for many major magazines (like Cosmopolitan) at the same time. 

One successful writer said that for every 12 active queries you had out in the mail at one time, you would get an assignment.  And it was true!  If I had 24 queries out, I would get two assignments.  If I had 11 queries out, no deal. But if I wrote another one, I would get a call from an editor to write an article.  

To this day, I don't understand what the number 12 had to do with it, but it did work.

4. A little OCD goes far

Some writers put pencils in order by color on their desk.  Others have to have certain tabs open on their computer.  In fact, that's me.  In order to start writing, I have to have three tabs open in this order: Google Calendar, Gmail and Match.com.  

Charles Dickens, author of The Tale of Two Cities, had to arrange the ornaments on his desk in a very specific order before beginning to write. If they weren't placed in the exact right way--or if someone had moved them a bit--he couldn't write until he got them back in the same exact order.

5. Hanging up rejection letters

This is one ritual that never went over with me--hanging up your rejection letters from editors.  Believe me, in the beginning, I could have covered the inside of the Taj Mahal with rejection letters.  But, instead of helping, rejection letters really got me down.

But not true for other authors.  There are some famous authors that papered their walls with them.  I guess it was to defy the reality they were facing at the moment.  Many of these writers, including JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, saved and showed off their rejection letters, especially when they finally struck fame.