Messing with the method

Do you need a particular setup to write? Locked door, absolute silence, Chai by the keyboard? Study redolent of pipesmoke with leatherbounds crammed on shelves and a deep buttoned chair in front of a massive desk?

I needed the locked door and the keyboard anyway. If I played music it had to be instrumental or in another language to keep from breaking my focus.

But that had to change. First, know that I am a night writer. For some reason, I am capable of producing nothing better in the morning than a prodigious eye booger. Second, know that I am married to a morning person. Thirdly that for reasons of internet cabling in my house the computer must needs reside in the bedroom. My keyclicks were keeping my wife up at night.

So I started writing longhand in a notebook, and you know what? My productivity went up. I can’t write as fast as I type, but I was writing more regularly. And I found that typing it in gave me a good first-pass edit. Now I have a good setup: A headlamp with red led and the Uni-ball Power Tank pen. The pen allows me to lie in bed next to my wife and write on the vertically held notebook without losing ink, and the red led produces significantly less glare than a white light would, so as long as I do not rattle the pages too much she can sleep and I can write. The only drawback as I sit with my hair sticking out between the elastic straps of my headlamp, is that my wife thinks I look like a dork in bed, which no husband wants, but one must suffer for their art.

But that had to change. Because I also have a daughter who joyfully takes up all at-home time until she goes down for the night, at which point I actually want to sleep, go fig.

So lately I have been writing during break and lunch at work, longhand on a pad of paper which I made from cover-sheets from a shared printer, stapled face-down to cardboard. I write in a noisy break room, ignoring the conversations around me and conscious of the 15 minute or 45 minute deadline I have to stop by. At home I would never be able to just write for 15 minutes, I’d be like: “What’s the point?” But at work I snork my coffee and then put the pen on the paper and go. I have been able to consistently crank out 300-600 words a day like this. Not the same wordcount I had when my nights were my own, but still enough to give me a sense of accomplishment and get the dang words across the page. Then if I get a free night to write a couple thousand words, that’s icing. The downside is I miss out on breaks and lunch with my coworkers, but then, an artist has to suffer, right?

I have gotten a lot less pretentious about the conditions surrounding the act of writing, and by shoehorning it in here and there it has become a less intimidating process to begin. I am not trying to MAKE ART, I just want to get a few words in.

Gene Wolfe once said in an online interview: Well now dangit. I can’t find the interview! If anyone can, please link to it in the comments. Now I’ll have to paraphrase.

Basically he said something like if you only have 30 minutes to write each day, you’ll be able to do it in the back of a pickup truck going 35 down a country road.

You get the point. The quote would have been better though….hmmph.

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