Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Do We Writers Need?

Some writers compose on laptops at their kitchen tables while others require an elaborately designed office like Mary Higgins Clark. But whether your writing space is large or small, drafty or air conditioned, there are things we all need in order to create, although they differ widely.

Many writers need quiet with a capital Q. But those of us who began our writing careers as news reporters and can literally write in the midst of traffic jam, so great is our ability to concentrate. So what do other writers require?

According to Bethane Kelly Patrick in her Writer’s magazine article, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s writing desk was filled with objects d’art, souvenirs and books. On the other hand, Henry David Thoreau’s sparsely furnished shelter by the pond was as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. He must have been easily distracted. And in those days, a quill and ink well were necessary tools. Now, a keyboard is all we need to create.

Writing is a lonely avocation and pets, especially well-mannered dogs, make great companions. Cats are also great companions although they’ve been known to walk the keyboard and create some interesting literature of their own.

Music is a requirement for some while others want to be surrounded by family photos to inspire them, or a jar of jelly beans or cup of stimulant, whether it’s coffee, tea or soda.

Writers from the past were known for their drinking habits, among them Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Hemingway claimed that he never drank while he wrote but said that he could tell when Faulkner began drinking during the writing process by simply reading his prose.

A Christian novelist I know says that he has a special baseball cap that he wears while writing. Once misplaced, he developed writer’s block. A romance writer told me that she carries a charm in her pocket and that it helps her to develop her muse.

I write surrounded by book cases and a stack of manuscripts and research notes. A neat, sterile environment just isn’t conducive to my creativity. As long as I have more than one work in progress, I know that I’m not going to bog down with writer’s block. Especially if I have a steaming cup of chai tea.

How about you? Which things do you keep handy to stimulate your creativity and what’s your writing environment like?


  1. I write on my couch with my feet up on the coffee table. LOL. Kind of pathetic but it works for me. I love the quiet when I'm writing, but I've been known to tune out just about anything. I have a dog and a cat, but both ignore me when I'm writing. They know they're no match for my WIP.

  2. I assume you're using a laptop, or do you write on pad with pen? I wish my Australian Shepherd ignored me while I'm writing. She pushes her nose under my arm and I write in a foreign language.

  3. I don't have to have a certain set of conditions to write. I mostly write sitting on my bed (where I am now) with either a cup of steamy java or a glass of wine--depending on the time of day--sitting next to me atop a book case that serves as a nightstand. I often leave to write in the local library on Sundays to be away from the boys (they watch Soccer and scream and shout) or I go down town and sit in the bookstore. I am fascinated though to hear about writer's requirements. I was in a writing group once and the host of the group could only write on a portable card table that she had to take with her on writing get aways.

  4. Oh, and I like your muse's name. I wonder if he and Tobias (mine) are buddies.