Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Writing Process: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Word (Part 2)

Setting Up for Writing

When I finally get myself to the place where I am ready to start writing, I settle myself (usually) either in my desk chair or on the couch in the living room, facing my computer. I suppose I take a deep breath or two, preparing myself for the beginning of—what? Something. Junk, seeds of great ideas, an interesting story. Sometimes I make sure to have a glass of water nearby, just in case I get thirsty. I know a lot of people like to get set up with a cup of coffee or tea or something, but if I do that, there is the distinct possibility (probability, really) that I will forget all about it while I write. So there's really no point. Unless an idea is trying to hurriedly rush out, I make sure I'm sitting comfortably. If I'm really excited and prepared to sit down for a good writing session, and other people are around, I try to give them warning.

“I'm going to write,” I say, or shout down the hall, and they know that I really don't want to be interrupted for anything less than an emergency. It is important business.

Sometimes I don't want to write on my computer, but I want to fill up my current notebook. I get ready in a similar manner, but it feels more...personal, somehow. I usually prefer writing poems by hand. Depending on the time of day, I may get comfy in bed and curl up with my notebook and pen. For me, it feels like getting curled up with some hot chocolate in front of a fire.

I absolutely cannot have music playing while I write. It has far too great of an influence on me. I find my story becomes about the songs and I may even accidentally slip in some lyrics. No good. I did try writing to Beethoven once, to see what would come out—complicated symphonic strains without any lyrics to blatantly guide me—and I ended up with a mysterious romance in a grand ballroom and a pining man looking for flowers. As you can tell, the Beethoven I was playing was not his most intense composition. So, that was that. No more music.

I like to have relative quiet around me when I write. While I can let the animals in and out or get a glass of water without distracting me (I keep my mind in my story and continue writing even as I do other things), I cannot have conversations nearby. Usually, while I am searching for appropriate words, gestures, intentions, my mind feels—open, ready to absorb new thoughts and inspiration to be channeled onto the page. I'm not looking for inspiration from my surroundings necessarily, but it helps to keep my mind open, to—receive messages from my muse, let's say. So, having people talk around me, even if it isn't directed at me, bothers me because my open mind readily absorbs the chatter and refocuses. I am able to write in a public space, but it is always more of a struggle, because I effectively have to shut out the outside world, which means closing myself off. It is something like writing in a tunnel: it is still possible and not acutely restrictive, but it feels a bit cramped.

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