I love those slideshows that come out every so often picturing famous writers and the places they do their best work, filled with cluttered desks and worn leather chairs, haphazard walls of books and pensive pets captured in repose. I love them the same way I love looking into people’s houses when they leave the lights on and the blinds up after dark: a creepy, curious, comforting glimpse into the way the rest of the world lives. But here are a few of my own writing habits, so you can indulge your stalker side, too.
As we’ve previously established (in a post that gets several hits every day from people around the world searching for an image of a coffee shop), I like writing at home. I like editing at the office, because editing is work and home is too relaxed a setting to be brutal with myself, but creativity happens on the couch. I’m not a writer who needs a very specific set of things around me at all times, but I do like to know where the cat is, because when I don’t, it means he’s getting into trouble.
I also like a water bottle or something nice (and non-alcoholic) to drink, because picking up a glass gives my brain just enough time to pause between typing frenzies, and because staying well-hydrated is the key to any endurance sport. Eating is a distraction, though, and I can’t snack (dirty fingers on the keyboard) or eat dinner (can’t tell you how many times I drop my fork) while I’m in the middle of a thought.
I usually have a blanket, both to prevent hypothermia from hours of physical inaction, and because I never made enough blanket forts as a kid and so have a latent need for quilted security. I wear pajamas and a sweatshirt and kick my feet up on the ottoman, leaving me swaddled in warmth and comfort, and allowing me to leave my body behind while I’m wandering in my made-up world. That’s the most important aspect of my work space, wherever it might be. I have to be able to get lost.
When I’m editing, though, I have to be external. I have to be separated from that world so I can see it from the outside, just like my readers will. Editing at home is pointless, and I find myself being a little too indulgent with things that don’t really fit, because all I can remember is how nice I felt when I created them. Besides, Oliver is a harsh critic.
The only other thing I’d classify as a “need” is some sort of game. Solitaire, Bejeweled, Tetris…I need some sort of relatively mindless, repetitive thing to play in order to occupy the half of my brain that’s normally responsible for self-doubt or frustration. Keeping that part of me on autopilot is the best way to ensure that I won’t wander off.
I guess I don’t have any endearingly quirky habits, like keeping one shoe on and wearing a goose on my head, or listening to Flight of the Valkyries at full blast over and over (I’ve evolved to need silence, which is boring). Just give me some water, a cat, and a quiet place to stretch out with my laptop, and I’ll be perfectly fine.
What are the things you need around you in order to write? Books? Your lucky scarf? A squeezy stress ball? A live brass band?