The Write Atmosphere

I love to read about other authors’ writing habits.  What’s your writing routine?  Do you write early in the morning?  Late at night?  In the middle of the day?  Do you sit and talk to the computer?  To yourself?  To your dog?  Do you listen to music?  Other people’s voices?  The sound of silence?

I think parts of your routine are generational and rooted in your own past.  It can be hard to leave them behind.  For example, I need silence.  Try as I might, I can’t work without it.  If it’s noisy, or if other people are around, I find that I am less focused.  Less productive.  I grew up doing homework in silence.  I studied at the library.  The classrooms of my childhood were quiet places.  When I practiced law, I always worked best when my office door was closed.

My kids, on the other hand, can work with music playing or the tv on, or other voices babbling, and constant activity in the room where they’re studying.  They even prefer it this way.  It took me a long time to come to grips with this bizarre reality, but I have learned to accept it and even marvel at it.  But that’s the way it is in their schools.  The teachers often have music playing, there are kids in small groups talking and interacting, and computers are everywhere and always on.

My work day takes a hiatus when the kids get home from school.  I work until the first child comes home, then when Kid #1 goes upstairs to do homework (with the iPad on and the texting in full swing), I work until the second child comes home.  It is at this point that writing usually becomes a useless pursuit.  Kid #2 has a lot to say after school.  When Kid #3 finally comes through the door, forget it.  I’m then prepping for whatever the evening will bring, and I put my writing aside until everyone is in bed.  Or at least ensconced in his or her own room.

Likewise, you may not believe this, but (gasp!) I work with pencil and paper until I’m ready to draft my novel.  All the research, the ideas, the outline, almost everything, is handwritten for months before sentences come together on a screen.  This habit of mine comes from school- elementary school, high school, college, and law school.  All I ever had to work with was a word processor, and I had to sign up for time to use the word processor lab at school.  Everything had to be written before I could get on the machines, because my time was limited.  Old habits die hard.

I have a few other “musts” while I write.  They’re not generational or rooted in my past- they’re just the way I am.  First, I always have tea next to me.  On my right side.  This time of year, it’s hot tea.  In the summer, cold.  Second, when I’m not on the computer I like to work in one of two places:  the kitchen table or my eldest child’s desk.  The light is perfect in her room.  Third, I write more productively after I’ve put in my time at the Pilates studio.  Finally, since the tea is on my right side, on my left is J.L. Rodale’s Synonym Finder.  It was a gift many years ago, and I can’t work without it.

What are your habits and routines?

Until next week,