Recently, I had a flip through How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors by Dan Crowe and Phillip Oltermann, and was fascinated to learn about all the quirky rituals and specific places that help writers complete their work, and found a few inspiring. I realised that we all have quite particular ways of doing things, and in this post, I will share how I practice writing and what helps my craft be as effortless as it can be.
Where do I write?
The place where I write changes depending on what it is I am working on. If it’s a new idea, something that’s barely taken its first breath onto the page, I like to write at home, wherever home happens to be that day (I move a lot). This helps me develop the idea in a safe space, where no one can distract me from it, and the novelty of it is enough to keep me engaged.
If it’s something I’ve been working on for a while, I like to work in a crowded place, but one where no one is going to bother me — coffee shops, the library, on a plane… Because once I’m settled on an idea, I get distracted easily, so being in a public space keeps me conscious of what I’m working on. I can’t exactly scroll through Pinterest in a library where working spaces are scarce and people wander around waiting for one to open up.
How do I get started?
Coffee. Hot or iced, sweet or bitter, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s coffee. Keep it coming, but switch to decaf after 5pm.
A tidy space. I don’t like chaos on my desk, it’s distracting. I could spend an hour cleaning up my desk, taking away from my writing time, and then I’ll be too worked up about losing that time to get back to writing.
Rainy days. They always do the trick for me, although I confess I don’t know why.
How do I actually write?
I usually read what I wrote last. I end up editing most of the time before I can write something new. I like order, and I like to know I’m building on a solid foundation (as solid as a draft can be).
How much I write depends on how well I’ve prepared myself for the writing day. If I’m in the wrong place, I’m out of coffee or my desk is a mess, I probably won’t get past the 500-words mark. Even on days when everything is right, I might not get more than a sentence down. It’s not an exact science, and I try to be flexible with it, but I do get frustrated some days.
Do I write every day?
Would I like to? Yes. Is that realistic? Most certainly not for me.
Where do my ideas come from?
Fishing. Ideas come from the depths of a lake I call ‘Anywhere’. As David Lynch appropriately described it, ‘ideas are like fish, and you don’t make the fish, you catch the fish, [and] desiring and idea is like putting a bait on a hook and lowering into the water.’ An idea can strike from anything, all I have to do is pay attention to when the line is moving and reel it in.