Everything Has to Be Just So to Write?

There is an article in ‘The New Yorker’ that fills me with guilt: it is an essay by Roxana Robinson, novelist, essayist, short-story writer on how she starts writing first thing in the morning.  She sacrifices conversation with her husband, glancing at the news, a good breakfast and even (horror of horrors!) a decent cup of coffee in her desire to sit down and listen to her deepest thoughts and dreams.

BookshelvesI am full of admiration, but I also have to admit my own experience is so far removed from that, we might as well be living in different galaxies or parallel universes.  Not only do I have a family who conspires to destroy my gossamer of dream-thoughts even if I wake up at 6 in the morning to sneak to the guestroom to get some writing done.  But I am also a bit of an obsessive-compulsive (which means I need to have a clear desk), a coffee snob (which means taking the time to choose the right coffee), a perfectionist (I need to feel I have a clear mind, all the admin paperwork out of the way, my emails checked for any urgent messages) and… OK, I’ll admit it, a procrastinator (so I like to work up to things gradually, which means easing my way in via far too much Twitter or reading blogs or other stories etc. etc.).  It’s a wonder I ever get anything written at all! (But perhaps not so much of a wonder that I have yet to publish a novel).

So this blog post below is perhaps a fairer description of what happens in my house (I was unable to reblog this, so I am cutting and pasting it from the website of Abigail Kloss-Aycardi, which is well worth a visit):

I was listening to a lecture on creativity by John Cleese that is posted on Twitter this morning. I found it very inspiring and I agreed with all of his points.

I felt quite ready to get to writing some poetry….but I ran into some basic problems. This is not a poem, just the conversation I had with myself and the conclusion that I reached.

I can’t write with the door shut,
It’s too hot; I’ll suffocate.
“Then put on some shorts,”
I can’t write in shorts.
I just can’t.

I can’t write on my iPad,
I don’t want to “hunt and peck”.
“So use your laptop,”
It’s too heavy and it gets too hot.
I just can’t.

I can’t write in the bedroom,My husband’s in there.
“So what?”
I don’t write with anyone else in the room.
I just can’t.

“So what do you want?”I want an air conditioner in this room.

I want a thin, light-weight, cool-running laptop

And I want to shut the door.

“So what are you going to do?”

Go make some hummus,

The chick peas are almost ready.

I am sure I could write better in this library...
I am sure I could write better in this library…

14 thoughts on “Everything Has to Be Just So to Write?”

  1. Marina Sofia – I know what you mean about wanting things to be a certain way before you write. I think some people need things to be ‘just so’ as a way of giving themselves permission to write, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Each of us approaches writing in a different way. I admire you for knowing what you need and not ‘settling.’

  2. I agree with Margot. All of us are different, and what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for the next one. I love the pictures you posted too. Would love to have shelves like those.

    1. Well, you know me and shelves. My own shelves are the first picture (well, part of them), but of course I tell myself that if only I had the second lot of shelves, my creativity would know NO bounds!

  3. Marina, I was ready to hang myself after reading Roxana Robinson. Mercifully, you intervened and may God bless you for that!

    RR is damn right about the dewy film, the ‘gossamer’ that a night spent away from the dreariness of life spins around us. But since we were born to this world, we must pay its debts too. If I survive the snafu that my sparring twins and their much harassed mother create before the girls leave for school, my office is the whirlwind that shreds the gossamer to a fine ionic dust.

    All I want is a night that extends into infinity. A night to whom the ‘hurly burly’ of life is a daymare! A night cocooned from a prying neighbour and his overzealous dog. A night where my boss doesn’t dump a week’s worth of project on me at quitting moments. A night when no matter how much I procrastinate, I eventually start punching the keyboard.

    1. Beautifully expressed – I so hear you! I sometimes suffer from insomnia and I used to toss and turn, get all worried. Now, I just think of it as my night of infinite creative potential…

  4. Oooh I’m with you. I go through this whole weird routine of doing random stuff before I can write. I got to tidy, make a cuppa, hang out the laundry, clear my desk and my inbox. I recently remembered why I do all of this. It harks back to something we wrote about a long time ago… I say, Peak Performance Ritual, haw haw haw!

  5. My goodness – this could be me! Thanks for making me laugh out loud – literally – and giving me some good rationalization points for when I do the same thing tomorrow!

  6. I don’t write for a living, but I know that I have my own morning ritual before I start work for the day. If any one part of that ritual is disrupted, I do struggle the rest of the day.

    That being said, I think writing is like exercise. Everyone does something different and those who are the most successful find what works best for them. Would I love to get up in the morning and get my workout out of the way? Absolutely, but I just cannot do so. I am not a morning workout person, no matter how often or how much I’ve tried to become one. Yes, the research says that working out first thing in the morning is more beneficial and produces greater effects, but it isn’t for me. So, I could either struggle to be someone I’m not, doing something that doesn’t work for me, or else I can adopt my own plan that does work for me. I see similarities with writing. Some authors write at night, some first thing in the morning. Some have to go to a cafe, some have private writing nooks. Others write in their kitchen or living room, surrounded by the chaos of family. I say whatever works for you, makes you the most comfortable and conducive to a creative mind is the most important and forget about what others do. Good luck!

    1. Amen to that! Very wise advice: you cannot be something you are not, no matter how ‘good for you’ it is supposed to be. The funny thing is: I am a morning person, but, like a hen preparing to lay an egg, I have to faff around and rearrange my nest a bit before I get down to business.

  7. LOL! This is awesome!

    I am totally going through this right now. Everything does have to be just so for me to write, which in turn becomes procrastination. Those dishes and errands need to be done…I need a clear mind to write – simple as that!

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