Writer, Confess Thy Eccentricities!
Just about all writers have some kind of eccentricity to their work habits, I believe—some quirk that works for them. Mine is that I have to more or less fill up every surface of the folder holding the print-out of my novel-in-progress with words. In the photo above, it’s the folder for Borne, bowed under the weight and confusion of notes. There’s no logic to writing them down on the folder, except that there’s this mental construct in my mind. The work must be surrounded by related thoughts and ideas scrawled in a kind of protective spell. These words keep the work safe—keep bad influences out and let the work marinate and reach maturity under that protection of that binding. It makes no sense at all, but it’s the only magic I engage in, and a blank folder surface fills me with a feeling of unease.
So, tell me, writers reading this…what’re your eccentricities?
20 comments on “Writer, Confess Thy Eccentricities!”
I make playlists for different sections of a WIP, and I also draw illustrations (my artistic abilities are mediocre but that is Not the Point). I like to start in the middle and write out to both ends (sort of).
When really stuck, I drink tequila.
Agree with Sara on that. Playlists are essential. For “In the Shadow of Fallen Towers” I have a separate key band that I listen to for each of the perspective characters.
Oh yeah, and coffee.
I only write after dark. Well, I should say I only write fiction after dark. My mind tends to be more focused after 10 pm, so I usually work through the night when I’m working on a short story.
When I used to work long-hand, I would make a big “X” on the first page of a new notebook before getting started. Something about a blank page, or a whole notebook of blanks, can be a little intimidating.
I have started using an office flip chart and colored Sharpies. It is erected in my studio. That way I can live with the story while I am writing, jumping up whenever an idea occurs. The physicality being able to move around in front of the story is very conducive to creativity. Then I transcribe the notes into a notebook which travels with me through my day.
Sometimes, when I’m part way through a story, I have to make sure my notepad is shut when I put it down so the story can’t escape. Other times I am compelled to leave it open over night to catch ideas (and I’ve never admitted to myself just how peculiar that is until writing it down now).
I like to work at night in the dark when everything else is quiet. I’m a ghost in front of the computer screen with the occasional visit from a furry friend. :)
I write every day. Even if I just write in my journal, “This is my writing for today, even though it’s not productive, I am still putting words on the page. I am sad/angry/happy/busy/tired today.” It’s superstitious at this point.
Faulkner famously wrote an outline on the wall of his office. I have photographic evidence: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3103/2683560581_b0fe46a838_z.jpg?zz=1
I create the stupid cover design, and when inspired, mixes.
I think your “shell of words” is very cool.
Daily writing. Being unafraid to put words on the page no matter what I think of them as they spill out. A setlist for the session’s writing often helps. Plenty of seltzer on-hand. Not forgetting that I am a meat popsicle and getting up and walking around frequently, learning to compose not just at the deak.
No piece of paper is safe from me. I love letters, especially the ones from bank that come in nice big white envelopes. And post its. And of course I don’t keep the random notes at one place, but all over the house.
Playlists are de rigueur. But I usually listen one single music non-stop, manically, during all the writing process of a story. Sometimes two, but one keeps me focused. (I’m talking of short stories and novelettes here.)
And I also write lots of notes to myself with worldbuilding information. In every bit of paper available. I use to carry them around with me wherever I go, with my books and stuff (sometimes I write in the back of the books too), like a bag lady.
I keep my journal in the same binder, and take out the filled paper to place in big-big three ring binders as needed to lighten the load. The big binder is filled at the end of the year and goes up on a shelf. For my journals I prefer to write on blank paper, so I have to punch holes in it. I tend to keep a moleskine or the like in my pocket at all times, and a pen of course (how many pairs of pants have become inksplattered? a lot). On the moleskine I usually draw various stars, designs, phrases, squirrely-swirlies. Inside go my dreams and fancies.
I write on the train during my commute on a little netbook. When ideas come to me I quickly jot them down in my “ideas file” – another word document that is chaotically all over the place – it may just be a comment, or a character’s line of dialogue but sometimes it’s a whole scene, and I know I’m going to work it into the current WIP at some point. I just know if I don’t get it down right then and there it’s never as clear to me again as it is in that moment.
I need to write down storyline, story plot and parts of the story by hand first, though I transfer and edit them in the computer immediately. The story remains in my head in a different way, when it first went through my hand than typing it alone into the computer keyboard.
I also agree with those mentioning they work only after dark. During the day too much things keep distracting me and my head is not so focused. I only can do editing and typing things then, but good ideas wait till the evening.
One thing I do is hold on to those dear scraps of paper with my notes for life. I won’t throw them away but I’ll file them in my folder after I’ve inserted them in my text. I’m scared to discard them until the text is completed. The other maddening thing, to others around me, is that I keep different tote bags for various projects. When I take my book work with me I just grab that bag. I know there are other quirky things I do as they pertain to my writing habits; those just spring immediately to mind.
Rip out pages instead of crossing out, till I’ve at least got one clean paragraph. If the top half of the page doesn’t look like something I could turn in as a sixth grade homework assignment it’s no good.
(Not for every page. But any time the first word of the day doesn’t follow directly on the last word of the previous day.)
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