Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When I Write

I have this book called "How I Write." Talk about writer porn ... it's a bunch of interviews with writers about how they actually work. Their physical space, the talismen and rituals they observe, the foods they are attached to. If this book is any indication, writers are like barnacles--they grow attached to their chairs, they move infrequently and sometimes shun sunlight, they like to cluster with other barnacles, and they filter the passing current for interesting bits of debris.

I find this stuff fascinating. My sixteen-year-old self would die of shame.

Over the years of writing every day, I've managed to grow my own little shell, and it still makes me laugh. So here it is: When I Write ...

When I Write ... I drink loads of water. Bottles and bottles of it. Rarely coffee. The point isn't that I'm thirsty, it's that I have the attention span of a goldfish and I need to take breaks every 2.5 seconds for another sip.

When I Write ... I use the bathroom a lot.

When I Write ... I listen to the most godawful music. I don't know why, but it's all electronica, techno, and rave. As loud as I can get away with. My writing space is like a dance club in the Village. Maybe it's the beat. I dunno.

When I Write ... I can't wear a shirt. If I have to, I'll sweat profusely.

When I Write ... I mumble constantly and chew on a pen cap.

When I Write ... I type in a predictable and distinctive pattern. Silence. Clatter. Silence. Clatter. Backspace, backspace, backspace. Clatter. Silence. Ad naseum.

Yikes.

Writers are very weird people.


9 comments:

Erica Orloff said...

OMG, this cracked me up. I also have the attention span of a goldfish.

All right . . . when I write . . . I start with a soup bowl of coffee (HUGE mug) then switch to water.

When I write, I eat food that can be consumed at the desk with no effort. Yogurt. Smoothies. A handful of nuts.

When I write, I listen to eclectic music on a 900-song playlist of mostly alternative and dance.

When I write, I light candles and fend off a Demon Baby.

When I write . . . I generally can't see the top of my desk for papers and I mutter a lot.

The backspace key is my friend.

I check my email a lot to see what Jon is doing, what this one is doing, what that one . . . looking for commiseration with writer pals.

When I write, I wonder if it's normal to spend so much time alone.

E

spyscribbler said...

Another goldfish here. I have this music, it's like white noise on beta levels or some other nonsense to help focus. I need my cold-brewed caramel mocha with soy milk, and I have to be at Borders during the day or on the front porch at 4:30am... but once daylight hits, I'm done. Even if daylight hits at 6am, I have to wait until Borders opens at 9am. I have to have a pile, sometimes two piles, of 5-10 books that I want to look at in between writing, but I NEVER even open them. But I NEED my "friends" next to me.

Um, I think that's it.

Melanie Avila said...

*peers into computer screen*

Jon, I think you ARE me.

YES:
When I Write ... I drink loads of water. Bottles and bottles of it. Rarely coffee. The point isn't that I'm thirsty, it's that I have the attention span of a goldfish and I need to take breaks every 2.5 seconds for another sip.

YES:
When I Write ... I use the bathroom a lot.

YES:
When I Write ... I listen to the most godawful music. (but mine is usually bad 80s music ala Richard Marx and George Michael)

YES:
When I Write ... I can't wear a shirt. If I have to, I'll sweat profusely. (okay, usually I just flip the hem up to expose my belly -- it's like that now -- but the past couple days I've actually ripped it off)

YES:
When I Write ... I mumble constantly and chew on (my lip)

YES:
When I Write ... I type in a predictable and distinctive pattern. Silence. Clatter. Silence. Clatter. Backspace, backspace, backspace. Clatter. Silence. Ad naseum.

I'll also add Erica's thing about checking what my friends are doing online. The only thing that helps is to quit Messenger so I don't get email alerts, but I still check every couple pages.

LurkerMonkey said...

Erica,

I had to stop eating at my desk. For one thing, I was getting too much food in the keyboard (gross) and I realized I was eating bags upon bags of almonds.

I also wonder if it's normal to be alone this much.

LurkerMonkey said...

Now, Spy, that's an image! On your porch, 4:30 a.m., a pile of books next to you, laptop glowing in the predawn. I'm not sure if I could write in that situation because I'd be so tempted to simply enjoy.

LurkerMonkey said...

Melanie,

Really, truly very weird. I have a ton of siblings -- are you sure you aren't one of them? I should show you a picture of my favorite girl cousin sometime. You wouldn't believe it.

I check too often, too. I have to turn off email and IM.

Melanie Avila said...

And I didn't even leave anything out. Aside from the occasional snack, I try not to eat at my computer either. The place I worked at in Chicago didn't allow us to eat at our desks (for sanitary reasons) and I got out of the habit. Now I try to eat elsewhere as a way to force myself away from my desk.

Erica Orloff said...

Jon:
I keep telling my kids there's something wrong with my life in that I never eat a meal but DRINK my meals (smoothies) or eat standing up, or one-handed or whatever. My life is too crowded.

E

Amy Sue Nathan said...

When I write...I leave the TV on in another room.

When I write...I am surrounded by cans and coffee cups.

When I write...I email my writer friends and tell them I am writing.

When I write...I check my email to make sure I'm not missing correspondence from very important people.

When I write...I do not answer the phone unless it is my BFF and then I say, "I'm writing I'll call you back."