Magical Items and Writer Superstition


A younger me.

My last deployment in the military was to Iraq.  I was attached to a team of pipe-swinging Army guys.  I was their combat camera goofball.  I documented missions as they happened shoulder-to-shoulder with them (well, truth be told, more out of their way and to their right.  You always photograph and video Special Forces guys from the right.  It makes them look more bad ass – that’s a pro tip).

On the last mission I ever went on with them, we found a giant cache of weapons hidden beneath a building in a speck of a town on the edge of the desert.  I went down to take photos and document it before they blew it all to smithereens.  Hidden among a pile of dusty AK-47’s and corroded artillery rounds was a pen.  It was old, and silver, and engraved.  I took it and put it my pocket.  It didn’t have any ink in it, but it made me feel more stately when I held it close.  I didn’t realize it then, but that pen was magic.  It gave me the power to write – and write well.

silver pen

The magic pen.

Okay.  Half of everything I just wrote is a lie – but it’s a lie with purpose.  I was in the military, I did deploy with a team of testosterone fueled SF guys, and we did find weapons caches and blow them skyward.  But the pen, alas, I did not locate the pen.

My magic item from the deployment was the hat that sat on my head throughout it (when I wasn’t wearing a helmet).  It’s been years, but I still have that hat.  It’s black still, but faded.  My grandpa survived the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and his brass field artillery pin is pushed through the frayed bill.  The pin is a constant reminder to me of what a great man he was and how he survived his own war.  When I have that hat with me, I feel safe, even when the world around me is chaos.

When I became a cop, the hat sat in my cruiser.  I wasn’t allowed to wear it, and it would have been odd if I did.  But it cast a cone of protection over me and my car.  I never had to fire my sidearm as a police officer and I came home to my family every night.

magic sword.jpgNow that I write, it serves me still.  My wife will see me walking around the house looking and she knows; I’m about to write but need my hat.  Is this foolish superstition?  Sure.  Does it help me sink into a writing rhythm regardless?  Absolutely.

The point is, we all have our bizarre rituals and magic items.  They are the tools we use to lasso the muse.  Maybe your magic item is simply music, or maybe you have the silver pen I’ve been looking for (I’m coming for it if you do).  With that being said, I’d be interested to hear about yours.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Until we talk tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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23 responses

    • My goodness, I lite candles before I write too!! As a combat vet with significant PTSD, who writes military science fiction, the scented candles help ground me. They let just enough of the demons out to make the story good without opening the paddock and letting them run free!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Ever since my life changed as I knew it, I have been thrown into writing poetry to release some of my emotions. On my desk, where I always write my poems, is a picture of Mark. I look to him for inspiration. It sounds stupid cause it is just a picture, but like your hat, it makes me feel protected and not so alone. Loneliness is one the hardest things to overcome. Still have not mastered it. Day by day. Love your writing, keep them coming. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always seem to find my ‘roll’ when listening to instrumental or fusion hip-hop. (Lately, it’s been a lot of jazz-hop.) The soft notes calm me down while the rhythmic beats keep my energy up, and it gives me something to nod my head to without the distraction of lyrics. My thoughts always seem to come more clearly and fluidly, too. This has worked for creative, academic, and professional pieces, I’ve found. (If you’re looking for a pre-made playlist that fits your ‘writing muse’, I’d suggest looking at – all the playlists are made by users, so you are far less likely to run into repeat-songs as you would on Pandora and far more likely to discover artists you like but never heard before.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m a big fan of instrumentals as well. Movie scores seem to make my fingers dance a little faster. I will check out the 8tracks website for sure. Thanks for reading and posting.


      • Yes, definitely check it out as I’m sure there are playlists for that. (It’ll also suggest other playlists based on your choices.) Someone suggested listening to video game scores and soundtracks and, though I am a gamer that appreciates game music, I’ve found video game tracks to be too emotionally-charged. (They’re good to listen to if your working on a scene in which the track would fit as background, though.) Also, if you’re into ambient music (equally good for ‘getting into the environment’ while writing), check out

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great info! You win the music prize for sure. That last option looks really appealing to me.


  3. I know there are a number of authors who wear a “special” hat. With some, it keeps them in “the zone”. Others wear one for that same reason you do, a superstitious belief that won’t let go of them. Whatever floats your boat (fitting for someone who was in the Navy). With me, I need, absolutely NEED a large mug of coffee or a bottle of water at my desk. If I don’t have one of these, my focus is blurry. I may take just one sip and I’m done with it, but it must be there in case I need it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mmmm coffee. The nectar powering my dusty brain right now. I am with you on this one. Thanks so much for reading and for posting. Happy writing, and may your cup never be dry.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. One of my protagonists has a psychological addiction to coffee. Often, when I want to get into the right mindset for writing his stories, I drink a lot of coffee. And probably wear something like what he’d wear. I know it’s weird, but I’ve been doing this for years, and it works for me. I also have a small collection of antique iron keys displayed on my desk, because sometimes it’s useful for tapping into that same character’s fears. (Note to self: get a pic of a deerhound.)

    My clone makes “working soundtracks” for each of his WIPs. He always listens to these song collections while writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can only imagine how the deerhound plays into this! Wearing the clothing of your protagonist is my kind of crazy *Corey makes a note to buy an eye patch*

      I do the same thing your clone (twin brother for anyone else who reads this) does. Different movie soundtracks with different feelings behind them: conflict, inspiration, exploration, and so on. Sometimes music will just ruin me though, I have to be flexible with it. Silence is sometimes key for me.

      Thanks for sharing this. You’ve got me seriously thinking about an eye patch now. Even if it is just a makeshift one. Might give me more insight into how sight is affected…


  5. Pingback: The Right Writing Routine « Quintessential Editor

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