Superstitious Writers

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‘If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.’

Groucho Marx

Journal Entry

Friday 13th 08.10 am

There is more clutter than usual scattered around my writing desk. A silver cross, silver bullet, wooden stake and hammer, cloves of garlic. A lavender candle is burning by a closed window. The door to the writing den is shut and bolted. This paraphernalia is possibly meant for vampires. Given the date, I am not taking any chances.

Writers, it seems, are a superstitious bunch. I think my superstitions are minimal. I always doff an imaginary cap when I see a solitary magpie (one for sorrow), and, other than an emergency, I will leave and enter a building by the same door. When it comes to Friday the 13th, I have never given the date much thought till now, but am intrigued by the mystery and aura surrounding it.

Origins of Friday the 13th

The origins of why the date and the link to misfortune are at best tenuous. One story points to Norse mythology, where Loki, the god of mischief, crashed a party of 12 other gods. At this party he arranged for the god of darkness to kill the god of light, causing the world to go dark.

Others link it to Christian tradition and the Last Supper, attended by 13 guests, and taking place before Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday.

We have to move to more recent times to find when the drama began to heat up. In 1907, Thomas William Lawson wrote the novel, Friday the Thirteenth, centred around the crash of the stock market. Move time on to 1980 and the start of the Friday the 13th slasher /horror film franchise and that, it seems, is where most of the responsibility lies.  

Superstitions of Writers

Returning to the main theme of this post, and looking at the superstitions of other writers, we find we are in good company. The English poet, Edith Sitwell, would lie in an open coffin before beginning to write. She claimed this cleared her mind and helped her focus.

Charles Dickens carried a navigational compass to ensure he always faced north while he slept – something he believed improved his writing and creativity.

The author of The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas, wrote all his fiction on blue paper, poetry on yellow paper, and articles on pink paper. Truman Capote refused to begin and end a piece of writing on a Friday.

All of which place my imaginary cap doffing and door ritual into the lesser of the superstitions category. What about you, fellow writers. Does Friday the 13th put you on edge? Do you have any superstitious writing behaviours? I would love to find out about them.

Have a great weekend.   

15 thoughts on “Superstitious Writers

    1. I think that one takes some beating, Alicia. I’m starting with different coloured papers for now, and leaving the coffin for a much later date. Glad you enjoyed the post. Have a good weekend.

  1. It’s funny, I was actually thinking about Friday 13th today … or rather when I was headed home after work on the train. My thoughts were more whether we’re paying less attention to it than we used to. That maybe younger generations are less superstitious.

    My mum always said she found 13 to be a lucky number … so I’ve tried to run with that idea

    1. I agree, Brenda. In numerology the number 13 has positive connotations. I noticed that the day did not get as much media coverage as it used to. I like your mum’s way of thinking. Thanks for taking time out to read and leave your thoughts.

  2. I didn’t realize it was Friday 13th till the day was almost over. So much for being unlucky. Yes, that horror franchise did play quite a role in exaggerating this date. And I’ll pass on the superstitions and simply dwell on the procrastination. Many times more horrifying. Haha! Have a great weekend, Davy. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Terveen. I prefer procrastination to superstition as well. And you are right, there is much horror to be found there😂. The next Friday the 13th is a few months away now, so onwards and upwards. Have a great week.

  3. Surprisingly, I’m not superstitious. I believe in ghosts, aliens and all sorts of supernatural phenomena, but I don’t suffer from superstitions. It probably goes hand in hand with my atheistic beliefs as religion in general seems a bit superstitious to me.

    1. That’s interesting, Jeff. I am with you on the religious traits, and ebb and flow on the supernatural phenomena. My wife comes from a science background and has an explanation for most unnatural events. I am not so sure science can explain everything. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. The only superstition I have is ensuring the Christmas decorations are down on or by 12th night (5th Jan). Otherwise, I’ve walked under ladders, crossed paths with black cats and not throw salt over my left shoulder when spilling it.

    No writing superstitions apart from not writing after I have consumed at least two large glasses of red wine.

    1. Isn’t wine based writing when the best stuff comes out, Hugh?😂. Christmas decorations always come down on New Year’s Day in our house, but I do do the salt over the shoulder thing. Perhaps I am more superstitious than I thought. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  5. Good post, Davy, and some interesting facts. I don’t really have any superstitions about Friday the 13th or about anything else I can think of. In fact, I didn’t realise it was Friday the 13th last week until the day after. I’m obviously not very observant! I might, perhaps, make an exception to walking under a ladder, although I’m not sure if that’s superstition or common sense. As a writer, I think I’m relatively superstition-free, too. Now, I’m wondering whether I should join the crowd and come up with something exciting! 😉

    1. I think you should stay exactly as you are, Ellie. After reading the comments on this post, I think I may be more superstitious than I thought😂. I wonder where I find the time to write. Have a good week and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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