Saturday, August 06, 2005

Black Cat

"If a black cat walks in my path, I will immediately turn around and go home, even if I am on my way somewhere." -- hip-hop artist Missy Elliott

I love black cats, but I have to wear something green on the day I finish writing a novel; preferably the oldest and rattiest green t-shirt I own. I'm convinced old green shirts are very lucky for me.

My oldest and most enduring superstition is a little weird; it's looking directly at anyone after they say goodbye to me, and or watching them until they disappear from sight. I won't do either because I'm afraid I won't see them again.

One of my writer friends is a Triskaidekaphobic (someone who fears the number 13) and will not write on the 13th day of the month. He won't even sign a check. He also counts characters to make sure he has either more or less than 13 in his stories. He blames his Catholic upbringing and a mother who was obsessively terrified of the number.

What are some of your superstitions? Do you have any with writing? Do you accept superstitions, resent them, ignore them, and/or regard them as phobias? Let us know in comments.

Also, some links for the curious:

A-Z Superstitions
Silly Superstitions
Sports Superstitions
Superstitions from Europe

17 comments:

  1. Once, when I was about 20, I was walking through the front doors of a big-box store (we didn't call them that then, we called them discount stores) and I went through a different door than he did.

    "You shouldn't do that, you know. When you walk on the other side of something than somebody you're with, it means you'll be parted someday."

    Well, I wasn't particularly heartbroken to be parted from my boss, but ever since then I've worried about walking on the other side of an object from someone I'm with, even though I know it's silly.

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  2. Once when I was a teenager, my best friend's mom told me about a superstition she had - crossing her fingers on both hands when driving over a railroad. Apparently, if you don't, you'll lose your true love forever. She's been happily married for many years. I adopted that one and to this day, I have to cross my fingers while driving a railroad. Have to.

    I don't have any connected to writing....yet.

    Erin K.

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  3. When we were kids, my sister and I firmly believed in the 'step on a crack, break your mother's back' and we avoided them as much as possible.

    Nowadays, I just try to exit a place throughthe same doors I entered and it seems like I knock on an awful lot of wood!

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  4. I'm actually a triskadekaphile. If I have to pick a number for anything, it's thirteen, and Friday the 13th is actually a special day for me. I adopted 13 as my lucky number. I think it started when I played Little League and Hotstove baseball when I was a kid. My team always won on Friday the 13th, and I always hit well and fielded well. (This from the world's worst right fielder.)

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  5. Anonymous12:01 PM

    My main superstition is that for me to write a word, I have to have coffee.

    I do remember as a kid sometimes avoiding stepping on cracks because I was worried about my mother's spinal health, but learned, soon enough, that there was no connection to the sidewalk and my mother's spine.

    (I love reading your blog every day! And it definitely sells books -- I buy your books under your various names as often as I can.)

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  6. I have done my level best not to establish any writing superstitions because I want to be flexible as situations change, but that's not to say I don't have them :). I write better out in direct sunlight, I always sign cover letters with a specific pen (/me looks at her acceptance rate. Maybe that should change ;)), and I'm sure there are more.

    However, I wanted to add something to Dean's comment. When I was a kid, my dad taught me that when you were holding hands and something came between you, you say "bread and butter". These are two things that belong together and so you know you'll come back.

    Oh, and knocking on wood? So much that my knuckles should be raw. I'm Irish so I carry my wooden noggin with me wherever I go, making it simpler. It's amazing how hard it is to find wood in this world.

    Cheers,
    Margaret

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  7. Anonymous1:12 PM

    I'm very superstitious, but I think it's a product of growing up in the VERY rural American South. I have all the usual ones -- don't walk under ladders (just good common sense, that one), avoid the number 13, knock on wood to avoid bad luck after speaking of good luck, etc.

    Then there's the less common ones. Find a dead black snake and hang it in a tree to bring rain. Cross your fingers when driving past a graveyard so the ghosts don't follow you home. Lick your finger and draw a cross on the windshield if a black cat crosses the road.

    The intellectual in me KNOWS I'm being a weenie, but I'm such a product of my upbringing I can't seem to help it. *grin*

    (First time commenter, btw! LOVE your blog. I read it at least once every day!)

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  8. Everyday superstitions:
    When I wash my hair in the bath (as opposed to the shower) I must use an odd number of jugs of warm water to rinse the shampoo out, or something bad will happen. I've weened myself off my old thing which was that I had to use seven jugs of warm water and three of cold (I had very long hair).

    Writing Superstitions:
    I have to write any new idea down in my special red idea book as soon as I get it, or I won't get to write it. Back when I submitted ms for myself, I always had to draw a mandala (a circle quartered by a cross) somewhere on the envelope. It never did me much good, but if I didn't something bad would happen.

    Come to think of it, are these really superstitions, or do I just have mild OCD?

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  9. Ha! I wrote about this a while back. My main superstition: if I say anything positive, I have to knock on wood. Knocking on my head is an acceptable substitute.

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  10. I'll walk under a ladder deliberately. lol. But any time I say good bye to some one I love,I always say it: "Good-bye, luv you." Just in case I never get another opportunity to tell them. (Which as happened once before.) No writing superstitions, tho.

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  11. Anonymous7:42 PM

    Superstitions are great motivators for characters. They don't do anything for me though.

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  12. I'm Irish too so I have a billion of them, but I love black cats too. But there is one thing I do every single night no matter what.

    When I was 12 years old I made a deal with God and promised to say my prayers every single night if he/she'd help me with a problem I was having.

    It was a pretty serious problem, and everything did work out, so I still say my prayers every night. I always keep my word.

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  13. Anonymous9:00 PM

    I don't know if it's particularly 'superstition' but I believe luck (good and bad) happens in related threesomes. If If two people at work have car trouble on the same day, I full expect to get a flat on the way home and complete the unholy triumvirate, for example. As a result, I'm usually waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    I'm also obsessed with the time of 11:23. AM or PM -- its always held special meaning for me since it matches my birthdate. I believe it's my lucky minute, and many a time in the day that I've had something good happen, I look over and...yup, 11:23. Consequently, if I see the clock about to roll to 11:23, I have a tendency to pause and wait the minute out.

    Maybe not 'superstitious' as much as it is 'weird'.

    Oh, and I cross myself whenever I drive past a graveyard. I suppose that counts.

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  14. No superstitions at all. I go out of my way to walk under ladders, just to prove it. Even Friday the 13th means nothing - when I was growing up in Spain, bad luck day was supposed to be Tuesday the 13th. Two cultures, two different days - makes a bit of a mockery out of it.

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  15. Oh yes, I ALWAYS tell everyone leaving (or if I'm leaving) that I love them. Just in case.

    And I thought of another one. It relates specifically to my dad, who is a truck driver. He's had more than a few close calls, and I believe fervently that he has a guardian angel. Whenever he leaves to go to work, I always tell him to be safe. Always. It's almost like a prayer sent up to God.

    And usually more often than not, I'll pray for the safety of anyone leaving my home, just like my grandmother used to. Our little family ritual of flashing porch lights as someone leaves our house is also kind of like a prayer, I suppose. :)

    Erin K.

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  16. I"m in on the luck in three's thing (including deaths =\ ). I meant to post on this yesterday but got distracted. I have no clue where this came from (besides my mom) but when you move you buy a new mop and broom. When I moved in May my brother noticed right off and said, "Mom?" and I said, "Yup." We both had a good laugh about it.

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  17. Anonymous7:02 PM

    I don't actually believe it, but a number of writers I know have had bad experiences dedicating a book to a spouse or lover early in their career only to see the relationship break up shortly thereafter and ever since advise other writers to NEVER dedicate a book to a current romantic interest. An Ex-boyfriend of mine with whom I lived for years defending his practice of not dedicating a book to me citing that superstition. he had no problem thanking me profusely and generously in the acknowledgements section but would never dare dedicate a book to me lest we break up. A boyfriend BEFORE him felt the same way but wouldn't even mention my name in acknowledgements. I have never dedicated a book to a lover or my husband but it's only because there is a line of folks before him deserving dedications. He'll have to wait a few more years. Incidentally, he's not a writer. I gave them up for Lent one year.

    Other writing superstitions include not dedicating the book to anyone until the final corrections have been made lest it jinx the relationship or friendship. It's similar but not as extreme.

    I know some writers who always use non-white (Ivory or ecru) envelopes to mail out submissions of stories since white is the color of death (or so they say.) Strange, eh?

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