March 17, 2011

what do you need to write?

Last week, fellow blogger Rowenna talked about why habitat shouldn't dictate your writing schedule at her blog Hyaline Prosaic, and she listed her preferences. I'm following suit.

I too have noticed that several writers have rituals or modes of writing, where certain stipulations must be met before they can even think about writing. This could be location, or wearing a certain item of clothing, or drinking a shot of tequila every thousand words - don't I wish I could be that guy....

When I was in college, I had a sort of writing mode. I could only write at night (and I mean like 11:00 pm or later) with my window open, listening to traffic. I had to have a cappuccino, or chocolate milk. No music could play. The only sound other than traffic might be my industrial sized fan (because it gets really really hot at Arkansas Tech University, and you wouldn't believe it, but I think that there is a portal to Hell on campus, specifically, beneath Witherspoon 127).

Now, I have some rituals, but if I don't meet them, I don't not write. I love to write. I have to write, so I will, no matter what.

As stolen from Rowenna... a Q&A:

1) Where do you like to write?
I have very little option here. I write on my desktop, so my location variance is only as far as my keyboard cord stretches. I prefer writing outside, but I can't very well take my computer outside and plug it up. I may open the windows and listen to the birds or traffic when warm weather strikes, but most of the time, I'm holed up in my office, pounding out the words. Sometimes, if I get too claustrophobic, I'll grab a notebook and pen and head out to the deck, where I'll write by hand. It's slower, but soothing. If ever I build a house, my writing hovel will overlook some gorgeous mountain, hill, or cluster of trees, and I'll have massive casement windows that will open up all around me. Then I can listen to the birds and squirrels and wind and rain and... I love the outdoors, can't you tell?

2) What time of day?
I usually write fiction in the afternoon, non-fiction (read: blog posts) in the morning. If I'm feeling particularly productive, I'll start working on my book as early as 10:00 am. I can no longer write at night because I have a husband to feed and a household to run. The day is quiet and peaceful, with not a single distraction to divert me from writing. Not so much in the evening.

3) What do you prefer to be wearing?
I go to work in my pajamas. I do prefer to wear at the very least, a shirt and underwear. In the summer, it's hot, and most of the time, I go pantsless. In the winter, I have to bundle up because my body just doesn't function at low temperatures. Typing in the cold is like fighting little gnomes with freeze guns and a general fear of fingertips.

4) Beverage at hand?
I generally don't drink while writing. If I do, it's Capri-Sun pouches, fruit juice, or water. I very rarely drink hot things while writing. Not sure why.

5) Snacks?
Cereal. I love cereal. I usually eat it while reading the work from the day before, because, well, it's difficult to type while eating cereal. It's difficult to type while eating anything really. That said, I don't need cereal each morning. I function perfectly well off apples, oranges, and Special K bars, too (though, I guess Special K bars are cereal).

6) Music?
For a while, the only thing I could listen to while writing was instrumental music, usually soundtracks or piano compilations. And I mean, from the time I got out of college to about two weeks ago. I could only listen to non-lyrical music as I wrote. Now? I listen to nature sounds, like ambient tracks of birds and crickets and waterfalls. I'm not sure why, but I have been more productive since switching to nature sounds that I could have ever been with instrumental music. Sometimes, I can write in silence, but only when I'm feeling particularly distracted. I think the nature sounds make me feel like I'm writing outside... see the first point.

7) By yourself or with others?
I have to write in solitude... see second point. When I'm doing the actual writing, I have to be by myself. I cannot write with others even remotely nearby. I can brainstorm and think about writing all day long, regardless of when, where, and who. I have a very difficult time blocking out people. That's why I could never listen to lyrical music. The voices jar me out of the task at hand. Maybe, if my husband is really really quiet, I can write with him in the office, but not usually. I can't write when my dog is barking either. That really distracts me, usually causing me to shout.

8) Laptop? Desktop? Longhand?
As said before, desktop. I have a wonderfully comfortable, ergonomic keyboard (you know, the wonky shaped ones). I would like a neoprene cushion for my elbows so they don't bruise after a long day of writing. I can write by longhand if the mood strikes, but I'm much more efficient on the computer.

So, my ideal writing day would be at my desktop, by myself in the afternoon, wearing pajamas. I would sip on tequi---juice and snack on cereal while listening to rainforest sounds. Sounds about right.

What do you need to write?


  1. I love your answers! I was desktop-only for years and miss my old clunker sometimes...but she died a couple years ago. LOL @ husband being really quiet--I can only write with my husband at home if I literally close a door between him and me. I'm wondering how tequila and Capri Sun would taste together...

  2. As long as it is silent (no music, no TV, no voices) I can write anywhere, anytime, any temperature on my laptop. I've tried and tried to write longhand, but it is just too slow. Wish I could, though.

  3. What I need to write varies from week to week. Sometimes I have to be alone at my desk, sometimes I need the kitchen table, sometimes I need to be in bed, and sometimes I need to be driven around in a car at night while I work. (I wrote almost one entire book with my husband doing circles around the city!) I'm really weird about my writing habitat. Haha!