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?