Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Supersitions and Other Things We Pretend Not to Believe In

In my life, I've spent quite a while doing theater. And, in case you didn't know this, theater comes with a lot of superstitions.

1) Never say good luck to a performer on a show night. You say 'Break a leg.'
2) Never put an actor in blue. This is bad luck, unless you have silver to contradict it.
3) Never, ever, say the name of The Scottish Play in a theater. If you do, you must go outside the theater, turn around three times, spit, curse, and then knock on the door to be let back in.

I could go on and on. Over the years, I became a font of superstitious knowledge, from what the superstition was, to where it came from, to how to counter the jinx.

To me, the superstitions were amusing. Something everyone could laugh at and joke over, and also a little ritual we could all share. And, let's face it, superstitions have an eerie habit of coming true.

Once, a member of the company said the name of The Scottish Play backstage during a show. Not an act later, our curtain ripped, something not easily fixed and definitely a problem in the middle of a show.

A year or so later, the next time someone accidentally said it, the following day, a mic broke. We all had the same thought, "No one wants to say it, but it's the curse." Actually, I believe the phrasing was, "Okay, no one wants to say it, but Jesus Christ [Name deleted to shield the innocent].Why'd you say the name?" In our minds, the correlation was clear. Scottish Play = Ridiculously bad luck. (Okay, it's still in my mind. People could say the name nowhere near a theater, and I still knock on wood. True story.)

Most thespians have a couple stories about a superstition and things going wrong. If you know any, ask 'em. It'll probably be interesting for you.

But, lately, when I started thinking about thespian superstitions, I wondered if there were any for writers. Well, I tried Google, but I came up with zilch. Sad for me. It seems past authors have had a lot to say about superstitions, but they haven't made any headway in actually creating any.

Now, I wouldn't say that we should all go out of our way to create some official writerly superstitions. That would be unsporting, not as much fun, and potentially cruel to those who come after us. (If you let blue ink touch your manuscript, ever, it will never be published. tehe.) But it does seem unusual to me that there are none.

Does anyone have any writing superstitions or know of any? Are you superstitious at all?


  1. I am very superstitious and the only superstition I have right now is saying the word = starts with a c, ends with a t, 8 letters and is a legal term -- when I have my query out. I have 2 partial requests so far and don't want to jinx myself by thinking I'll get one of the above mentioned things by being too conceited. Call me weird but I was in the theatre too and know all those, except about the silver contradiction. Good to know. Interesting post.

  2. I don't know of any writing superstitions, no. I am married to an actor, though, so I know all about those theater ones! My husband always tells the story of how someone said the Scottish Play's name backstage, and someone was later stabbed on stage with a weapon they thought was a stage weapon, but it was real. Yeah. Stuff like that you don't ignore. :)

  3. I don't think I have any writer superstitions, but I do a lot of knocking on wood in the course of a week. I don't want to tempt the gods!

  4. Nope, now writing superstitions, but I am superstitious. The theater ones are interesting.

  5. Piedmont -- I'm with you. I totally believe in such a thing as tempting fate.

    Glamis -- I concur. Sometimes, there's just too much empirical evidence. Logic be darned.

    Stephanie -- I hear you.

    Susan -- Well, I've always thought so.

  6. The only superstition I have according to writing is that you should never submit too early. But that's less superstition and more just common sense. Right? Right?