Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Things Writers Can't Do Without

by Jean Henry Mead

Some writers compose on a laptop at their kitchen table, others require an elaborately designed office like Mary Higgins Clark. But whether writing space is large or small, drafty or air conditioned, there are things that all of us need in order to create, although they differ widely.

Many writers need quiet with a capital Q. Then there are those of us who began our writing careers as news reporters and can literally write in the midst of traffic jam, so great is our ability to concentrate. So what do other writers require?

According to Bethane Kelly Patrick in her Writer’s magazine article, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s writing desk was filled with objects d’art, souvenirs and books. On the other hand, Henry David Thoreau’s sparsely furnished shelter by the pond was as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. He must have been easily distracted. And in those days, a quill and ink well were necessary tools. Now, a keyboard is all most of us need to create.

Writing is a lonely avocation and pets, especially well-mannered dogs, make great companions. Cats are also great companions although they’ve been known to walk the keyboard and create some interesting literature of their own.

Music is a requirement for some while others like a TV on in the background. Still others want to be surrounded by family photos to inspire them, or a jar of jelly beans or cup of stimulant, whether it’s coffee, tea or Pepsi/Coke.

Writers from the past were known for their drinking habits, among them Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Hemingway claimed that he never drank while he wrote but said that he could tell when Faulkner began drinking during the writing process by simply reading his prose.

A Christian novelist I know says that he has a special baseball cap that he wears while writing. Once misplaced, he developed writer’s block. A romance writer told me that she carries a charm in her pocket and that it helps her to develop her muse.

I write surrounded by book cases and a stacks of manuscripts and research notes. A neat, sterile environment just isn’t conducive to my creativity. As long as I have more than one work in progress, I know that I’m not going to bog down with writer’s block. Especially if I have a steaming cup of chai tea.

How about you? Which things do you keep handy to stimulate your creative juices and what’s your writing environment like?


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sometimes music, but I admit I am easily distracted. For extended periods of writing, I go into our living room and curl up on the oversized couch. (Our cats don't like the couch, so they rarely bother me.)

And I could never write on a laptop! Must have a notebook, as I hand-write everything first. Part of that is because when I type, I feel the words should be perfect and it inhibits my creativity. The other reason - I'm a very slow typer!!!

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

F. M. Meredith, author said...

I write in my office, but I don't mind noise--don't need music, and I'm interrupted a lot. Always have been.

Chai tea is something I'm fond of having while I write too. In fact, I always begin the morning with one.


Hagelrat said...

well I am not a writer, but if I am doing anything which requires concentration at work
(open plan office) I put headphones on, just half over the ear. That way I can hear my boss and my phone, but the general burble of the office is blocked. Technically we aren't allowed to wear headphones, but you try writing a duller than dull report while interesting conversations are happening around you.

Morgan Mandel said...

I love listening to country music in the background, but not too loud. When it's late at night, I don't mind the TV on, also not really loud, just kind of for background sound. If I'm really concentrating, like if I have to edit something or figure out part of a plot, I like it more quiet.

Morgan Mandel

Dana Fredsti said...

I need music for the most part because it's enough noise to distract the critical part of my brain that insists on taking an hour choosing every word, but not so much that it interferes with my concentration. I need to have a clean (or at least fairly clean and neat) environment. My cats can both be a help and a hinderence. Last night they were little pains in the butt, running races all evening and knocking things down.