The Writing Mascot

Sadie/Susannah/Jane here, wishing I was at the beach…

Hey, Wicked People! Hope you’re all enjoying your summer. I can’t believe it’s half over and I haven’t even been on vacation yet! I am going soon, though, to a lovely lakeside cabin in Vermont for a week. I’ll be leaving my day job (which I love, love, love–seriously!) behind, but I’ll be using part of the time to do some focused writing on a scary project in a new-to-me genre.

Now, I have lots of writer friends (and yes, I know how lucky I am).Some of them use a ritual to get themselves into Writer Mode, like turning on a special type of music, lighting a candle of a particular scent, or simple deep breathing. I’ve never quite found any of these things to be as helpful as just sitting my butt in the chair, rereading and surface editing the work I did the day before (I don’t go back further than that lest I am tempted to go back to the beginning and edit, which would mean I’d just be stuck in an endless loop and never produce any new material). But I know a ritual works for some.

Others have a mascot. My romance writer friend Stefanie London has a stuffed llama. Another romance writer, Regina Kyle, has a toy manatee (named Romanatee, which is the best name ever). And Toni Kelner has Sid the Skeleton. These items have taken on lives of their own, and they are great conversation starters with readers, too, when carried around at conferences.

So, a couple of years ago, I was spending a fun afternoon lunching and shopping with another friend, Kensington author Gail Chianese. We stopped in at an Irish imports store, and I saw an adorable stuffed sheep. I said, “Hey! There it is! My new writing mascot.” I proceeded to buy it. And it has sat on my desk ever since, but even though it’s cute, I never really bonded with it. The unappreciated little girl? guy? doesn’t even have a name.

Now my day job is at a subscription-only publisher of cozy mysteries. And one of the series I work on (the Amish Inn Mysteries, if anyone is interested) features a very, very lazy English bulldog named Beans. At a recent team meeting we were all given a Beans Facsimile. So he also now sits on my desk. I still don’t find him particularly inspirational, maybe because of the aforementioned laziness. But still, I like having him there better than my poor sheep.

Do you have a mascot? A totem? An inspirational ritual? Any crazy thing that gets you motivated to do what you need to do? Also, if anyone wants to suggest a name for Sheep Incognito, I’m all ears.

38 thoughts on “The Writing Mascot

  1. Yup, butt in chair works. As for mascots, it seems that a few years ago I started collecting stuffed animals. Not a conscious decision, more a “isn’t that cute?” reaction, case by case. And then I kept upping the ante. My most recent (and current favorite–shhh, don’t tell the others) is a stuffed vulture from Salem, who sits on the newel post of the staircase and greets guests when they arrive. But there are also sheep (quite a few), a goat, a wombat, a couple of cows, a chicken., and . . . But they’re quiet, they don’t require feeding, and they never talk back. (BTW, the only one that seems to have a name is the vulture: Irving, after Washington Irving, as in creepy New England stories.)

    • Stuffed critters tend to multiply by some mysterious process perhaps best left unexplored. I love that your vulture is named Washington Irving. He (the author) was required reading in NYS public schools (junior high level) English classes. He’s a good example of how setting influences story. Parts of the Catskills are really creepy.

      • I used to go to the Catskills for a theatre retreat. We were in Tannersville, and up on the hillside was a gorgeous old abandoned hotel. I led an exploration of it. It was fascinating. Presidents stayed there. I went to the local library and found the original brochure. There was a note at the bottom of it: “Negros, Hebrews and Tuberculars are prohibited.”

  2. I have a stretchy plastic owl bracelet my daughter picked up for me from the $1 bin at Target. It was a joke but I started putting it on before I’d write to remind me why it was so important to do what I love.

    The paint is almost rubbed off most of the owls now but in writing this post I looked for a picture to share and I found the brand so … I’m going to pick up a few more. I mean, they’re a dollar. 🙂

  3. Fun post, Susannah! I had a lovely watercolor of the cliffs near Port Isaac, Cornwall (my character’s homeland) on the wall by my desk, but that darn morning sun would not leave it alone. Sigh. I had to move my inspirational watercolor. Still looking. Thanks for the nudge! –kate / c. t. collier

    • I have other inspirational things too, like a “fake” check for a million dollars made out to me and pinned up on the bulletin board in front of my face. 🙂 I hope you find a good spot for your watercolor! And do you mean Cornwall as in England? Because after reading duMaurier and watching the new Poldark series, I desperately want to go there.

  4. Poor Seamus is doing his sheeply best to inspire you and you get a DOG to keep him company, how could you (tempewytch wanders off muttering and hugging her Paddington Bear lol)

  5. I love your little sheep. I want one! Recently I printed a copy of Caravaggio’s Card Sharps to remind me that in every scene, currents of motivation should be swirling around. The composition was unique for that period because it was asymmetrical: triangular and directs your eye from point to point expertly. First you see the two card players and someone watching on. Then you realize that the guy watching is peeking at the cards of one player and signaling to another and that other playing has a card tucked in the back of his pants that he’s reaching for.

  6. When we were at Bouchercon in New Orleans Julie and Liz were headed off to some woo-woo store. I asked them to buy me a rock that would enhance creativity. They brought back a polished amethyst which I deposited in my purse and promptly forgot. I found it a couple of months ago and added it to the small collection of odd items on the corner of my desk. It’s smooth and cool. While I’m thinking I find myself picking it up and rubbing my thumb across one side. Do I feel more creative? No. But it is comforting.

  7. I love all your stuffed animal stories. I don’t really collect them, but I do have a few. I have a super soft sheep whom I hug when things get really bad (fortunately, no often). My husband named her Lana Lynn. (Say it fast.) She lives in our living room where I can keep an eye on her. 😉

  8. A dear friend gave me a candle to light for inspiration. And it worked! Was it the power of suggestion? Butt in chair? Not sure, but I used that candle up and have to get another one. Hoping it works as well as candle number one.

  9. I have a general animal mascot for my series – the alligator. I tried bonding with an alligator doggy toy I bought, but then my pup got to it so now it’s his. But I have gator earrings, necklaces, etc. I know one day I’ll find a stuffed gator that speaks to me. It’s a little sad to see the stuffing coming out of the one I had, but my Pogo does love it.

    P.S. I want your day job!!

  10. I have a quartz crystal which I programmed years ago to be my “writing crystal.” The idea was suggested by my psychic friend, Linda Bennett and it seems to work. It’s in a mesh bag pinned to the bulletin board over my desk. The bag keeps others from touching it and messing up the intent. (To program a crystal, put it in salt water for a moment, then put it outside in the moonlight for two nights. Tell it what you want it to help with.) Try it. Hey, it couldn’t hurt!
    I also have a spoiled cat named Shadow who thinks she helps by lying on my desk while I work. Sometimes she walks on the keyboard. Not helpful.

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