At the weekend, I like to get up early. Take time, eat breakfast, stare into space.
Listening to music is essential, and reading for a bit is good, then by 8am I can start work on my novel.
I've been writing it for fifteen years, in different homes and different places, and I've had to change from longhand (Staedtler Noris pencil – sharp, with a rubber on the end – and an abundance of scrap paper) to typing because of disability and, no surprises, RSI.
But there's always been one constant companion; a pot of tea.
It has to be poured into a cup that sits on a saucer – though the pattern has changed, as has the use/absence of milk – and, as bonus, I can have something nice to eat, but it has to be on a plate that matches the cup and saucer.
When I am low, my state of mind can affect my ability to write, to immerse myself in the world I've created, to get in touch with the characters I love and my rituals have no effect.
One morning, I found myself thinking of something my niece had said when she was about four and I'd taken her to see the ballet version of The Snowman.
She looked at the snowman on stage and said "It's just a bit of fluff!"
The morning I thought of it, it felt as if my writing rituals were exactly that – just a bit of fluff – and that they only worked when I was feeling happy and writing well.
That I only deserved them when that was the case.
If I was feeling low and failing to write, I didn't deserve anything good at all. And I fear that if I carry out the rituals when I am in that state, they will become associated with the low patch and it will mean they lose their power when I am happy.
And it's not just on writing mornings I'm like that.
I can't work out which comes first – the self-punishment or the feeling low, the superstition or the association – but they seem to go hand in hand.
I've tried to think of a recovery toolkit – pleasures disappear from my mind when the bleakness sets in – and I've got a long way to go with it.
I am working on trying to be kinder to myself but sometimes I can't remember what kindness is.
What rituals help you?
In what ways are you kind to yourself?
What do you have in your 'Toolkit for Bleak Days'?
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