How You Write

Long ago there was a magazine called the Saturday Review. It was devoted to literary news, articles, and short pieces. One of the regular columns showed where famous authors wrote–one author and setting per week. We saw a photo of their writing space and whatever they gathered around themselves when they wrote.

How about sharing something about your writing habits? Where do you write? Describe your favorite writing tools (computer? tablet? special pen?). What time of day do you tend to write? Do you use any writing aids (tequila? favorite smoke? required stimulants?). How about music? Is it a requirement or something that must be avoided? What kind of music? Show us your chair, your desk or table, your room. What else is in that room? What is on the walls? Any special lighting? What else makes up your particular writing habits?

We’ve been writing together for quite a while. You’ve all described a burning candle; now show us your writing routine.

37 responses to “How You Write

  1. My internal alarm goes off. It is never pre-set. Sometimes it jars me awake with an adrenaline rush from a dream; a branch wisping against a window; a coyote yipping as it runs through the yard; a thought from my past.

    A robot on autopilot I take whisper steps to the Keurig and brew a cup. I don’t want to look at the clock on the stove but I must. It’s 3 AM. Good. I like writing when my mind is a jumble.

    I boot my computer and take a sip. My mind goes trancendental waiting for a thought. It stumbles in. Before it passes I jot its essence and begin my journey. Sometimes I falter. Other times, I soar.

    Sitting in my darkness, oblivious to my surroundings, I become my character. I am in his environment. I see what he sees; feel, smell live as he does.. For an hour perhaps I am no longer me.

    My fingers tap the keys, editing as I go. I am Rainman, obsessed with my story. My toes reach for my dog Savanna, asleep in a bed beneath my desk. She replies with a soft groan.The silence of my room is a cocoon of comfort. Of respite.

    I catch the sound of someone stirring, footsteps shuffling toward the kitchen. I give my words a final glance and hit save. I smile and join her and keep my journey secret. For a while.

    I write until my story ends.

  2. When I write an inspired first draft, I don’t see the words on the screen. I only write what I see playing in my mind. I don’t notice the keyboard clacking, the plastic Sponge Bob figure staring at me, the piles of dictionaries, various composition books, opened and unopened mail cluttering my desk or even the cup of coffee cooling to my left, always my left.

    However, when I decide that I need to edit or write something less inspired, the hand-painted space marine figure, the squeaky chair, the general mess of paper scattered about, and my cold cup of coffee distract me to no end.

    • Walter, Sponge Bob, Space Marine and Squeaky chair, sounds like the perfect writing environment to me. It always serves you well, your words prove that clearly.

    • A Sponge Bob Square Pants fetish on my desk would only inspire darkest writings from me, a darkness that I might not ever emerge from. Worse than writing while listening to “Brothers in Arms” while “The Deer Hunter” flickers on the TV.

      • SBSP is there to remind me of just how annoying – well, just how annoying I can be at times. I have been steadily trying to figure a way to make more than two or three different sounds with my nose. When I get that down pat, look out.

      • Walter, have you ever tried to play a Nose Flute? It is difficult to play at first, and down right impossible when you have a head cold, but once you get the hang of it, it is quite an interesting instrument. It goes well with a Bagpipe and Accordion.

      • My wife would not let me learn yet-another-noise-maker, guaranteed.

  3. To refer to my writing as a process is to elevate it far beyond its actuality. My writing would be more accurately compared to Acid Reflux; a fiery substance, bubbling up from the depths, that retains the flavor of events in my recent past. It usually strikes at the most inopportune time, like 2:00 in the morning or when I have other pressing duties to preform.

    For example, I need to write a sermon for church tomorrow because I was voted to be the substitute pastor by a committee of members during a meeting that I could not attend. This is the primary reason I strive to never miss a committee meeting at my Free Range Methodist Church. If you are absent, you are conscripted. I have been struggling with this assignment for over a week and have only managed to come up with the title of my epistle,

    “Jesus loves You…..Everyone Else Thinks You’re a Jerk.”

    So, this morning, I woke with a renewed determination to complete my Sunday sermon. But, I made one fatal move, I opened an e-mail from Lady Linquist. She breached the wall of my good intentions, and landed a direct hit with an irresistible prompt. Since I am powerless against my raucous muse, I find myself merrily typing a response to the Prompt De Jour.

    I am an extremely tidy person, but Miss Muse is a slob. She prefers to write in the middle of a messy desk with one dim bulb in a cheap replica of a Bankers Lamp. There is always noise in the background. Today it is a re-run of “The Love Boat”, featuring a self-pitying blind woman, a gentle farmer, an almost-divorced man and a nudist. Hey, Ann….that sounds like a potential prompt!

    • In the Methodist Church, missing a committee meeting, or not remembering to bring the fried chicken — I believe those are explicitly addressed in the Book of Discipline, at least here in Georgia.

      I have always thought that writing a sermon every week would be a very daunting task. Maybe you could fit your Teddy Roosevelt shopping cart in there somewhere. Good luck with the sermon!

    • Peanut, I am completely taken with both the sermon title and the Love Boat plot. Do you think that people writing Hollywood sitcoms have galumphing tables to work from? I think there may be a way to work those characters into your sermon, or at least a joke. You may have heard this one: “A blind woman, a farmer, a near-divorcee, and a nudist go into a bar….”

      I recently read a novel where a very old and very dirty homeless woman was mistaken for god. Somebody’s creative side is working!

    • I recognize that slob of whom you speak, Peanut. Isn’t she great?

    • Peanut, comparing your writing to reglux really gets to me…I can identify. It comes gurgling up when I want to sleep, and I have to get up and write before the thought leaves me.

  4. I must remember to use the Acid Reflux reference once the statute of limitations runs out! 😉

  5. Where do I write? How do I write?

    My latest strategy is to make writing as hard as I can for myself. I throw out all the writing implements and make sure I don’t pay my electric bill. I turn my study into an exercise room because I hate exercising. I will never go in there. I donate all my books to the local Friends of the Library book sale, and smash my Kindle with a hammer. Cell phone for voice messages to myself? I left that sucker at the grocery store on the Hamburger Helper shelf.

    Problem is, I’m a writer. Now I feel like I’m in solitary, sitting in the dark with just a pail and one meal a day. I consider using some of the leftover food, dabbed on a tooth pick for ink to mark up some toilet paper as a way to capture my ideas. If there is a handy fork around, I can scratch my plot into the wall. My latest idea is to get a speeding ticket so that I have some kind of paper to write on. Maybe the cop will take pity on me and give me his pen.

    I have to get creative about this. The ideas are starting to pile up. I have to find a place to put them, since my memory just isn’t up to the task. Maybe I can paste blades of grass onto the bathroom mirror with tooth paste, very slowly, making sure I know what I mean to say before I run through all the Colgate.

    I blame all this trouble on my inner critic(s) who routinely tell me I can’t write. In a spirit of contrariness, I decided to take them up on it. It’s my way of pouting productively. No more typing away when the spirit moves me or jotting notes onto yellow tablets. Take that, crabby voices! You win! I truly cannot write.

    Unless, of course, I try heating up a knife on the stove and burning words into a piece of fire wood. By candle light, of course.

    • You could burn matches and use the ash to make prison tatts on your arms and legs with the plot of the next great American novel. But that is a bit more difficult to error correct.

  6. I LOVE SOMEONE WHO SUFFERS FOR HER ART.

  7. Wow, stepping up to the plate after Jeff, Walter, Peanut and Ann walk away with four home runs. Daunting, intimidating, the pressure is on. How do I write? Let me count the ways.
    No, way too much of a cliché.
    Keep it simple stupid. Another cliché, but will let that guide me. I start with pen to yellow lined pad. Something visceral about the words flowing from hand to paper first. Hard to read, but a free falling flow. Mind knows it can be fixed later. Getting it down is key. A rush, a crescendo sometimes, and finally an “ah ha” moment.
    I set that aside, and seek a cup of coffee black. Rest a sec or two. Let the words seep into the paper. Now at my computer. Copyung my words from the pad, they change, the muse in charge now. It is always early morning for me. Days become to busy, nights too fatigued. Sleep feeds me and my muse.
    First printing. Read for obvious mistakes in grammar and punctuation. Re-type. Minor changes. Read, sitting in my easy chair now, the San Gabriel mountains gently coated with morning mist and light are on my left. I like vistas when I read. Now with pen in hand striking out entire sentences, changind names, chop, chop, chop.
    Time to re-do again, save as draft 2. Back to the chair. Happy with this now. Keep reading, Read aloud. No that sentence is wrong. What is it? Oh, I see. Damn tenses keep me on my toes. Another re-type,. Time to read it to Cindy. She is up now, grasping for her first cup of cream filled java. She listens, just like she has been listening to me for 34 years. Patiently.
    And so it goes.

    • Gale, I wish I could sip black coffee with Cindy and listen to you read aloud just once. I am charmed by your routine and the surroundings. Face it, I am charmed by your lovely words….always.

  8. There are so many wise writer comments here. Many writers believe there is a visceral connection between hand, pen, and paper, so you’re not alone! Your quote, “Mind knows it can be fixed later” is the essence of bypassing the inner critics. Just go! Full speed! You’re also smart to reread both on the typed page and the screen. They are two completely different experiences, and you’ll find things both ways that wouldn’t show up on just one medium. Catching wrong sentences is so important too.

    You sound like a writer.

  9. All I can think of to respond to these kind words is:
    “Aw shucks…”

  10. Aside from a slight (read: overwhelming) sense of intimidation from being in the presence of so much talent, I’m so pleased to have found your blog, Ann. I hope to learn much from you and your peers.

  11. Sheela,
    I hope you will try some of the challenges. We’re all trying things to see what works. It’s fun, and you can’t go wrong posting and seeing what happens. Try it! And welcome. –Ann

    • Thank you so much for the welcome, Ann, it feels a little like coming home 🙂 for the moment, I’m quite content to watch from the sidelines some already very inspiring work. Happy Monday, all.

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