Super Sad True Writing Habits

Tin House is running a series on the Super Sad True Habits of Highly Effective Writers so, as a writer who has been accused of impressive productivity on more than one occasion, I thought I’d share some of my own:

  • I write in chaos. My desk is a mess, my floor is a mess; even if I’ve just cleaned, something is always a mess. I’m cultivating synchronicity, you see.
  • I usually write at my desk where I sit on an exercise ball, but if it ‘s cold or I’m feeling especially lazy then I bring my laptop to bed. One day I will buy a kotatsu to use instead of my bed on cold days.
  • Mostly, I wear my PJs or an old bathrobe while writing.
  • Sometimes, I use the Pomodoro Technique to tear myself away from Internet fuckery, but it’s really a trick I play on myself since I almost always keep going after the buzzer for the work period ends. It’s just much easier to convince myself to start 25 minutes of work than to talk myself into starting several hours of work.
Lady GaGa
  • When I proofread my work, I print out a copy (usually in a font different from the one I wrote in) and take it to a cafe. Sometimes, if the weather’s warm, this involves drinking a coffee (soy)milkshake.
What about you? How do you get your writing done?

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9 comments for “Super Sad True Writing Habits

  1. May 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I wear soft black Korean martial arts pants when I write at home and I practically only write at home. When I take my iPad with me, I only act as if I write to look cool, but I don’t get anything done. I write less and less on the computer, more and more with longhand using my Lamy Dialogue 3 which I bought when I won a contest to celebrate. I write sitting in a rocking chair or on a tiny Kauri wood desk looking out over a fairly busy inner city street (there are two large schools across from our apartment). I mostly write early in the morning. I spend too much time on the net as well, though I like to do “research” by browsing aimlessly coming up for air now and then and taking a long walk. I listen to modern classical music (Cage, Ligeti, Finnissy, Pärt, Glass, Riley, Adams, Henze, Xenakis and so on) when I write or to anything by Bach. I don’t have my own study: the desk and the chair stand in a bay window of our large living room. Defending my work space against intruders is a large part of my daily entertainment routine. I’m surrounded by many thousands of books in this room. The books speak to me almost continuously. I hardly ever print any of my work out anymore. I run two secret blogs where I post my work in different stages of production just for me to look at; I add a lot of pictures and photos which represent clues and possible paths. That’s it pretty much, thanks for asking!

    • ekswitaj
      May 13, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Ooo the martial arts pants sound very comfy!

      Cage is interesting to write to because his work can be very startling (I’m thinking particularly of the Roaratorio) and being startled is usually bad, but I find that I can get back to a state of concentration very quickly in this case. I’m not sure why that is.

      • May 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm

        The pants are super. By Cage, what works best for me are his violin etudes played only, suicidally, by Arditti. This music also has the added benefit that it keeps my family away.

        • ekswitaj
          May 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

          Cage is definitely useful for keeping away distractors. Or for revenge against loud neighbours.

  2. June 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I can’t write at home, nor can I do homework there. I have to do everything out in public. For this, restaurants and coffee shops are perfect. Because of this, I have no actual desk or writing room. Being away from my house while writing helps to insure that I have nothing to do but write. I’ll head out and start working on a manuscript and, three hourse later, I’ll walk home. Due to the public nature of it, I have little choice but to listen to whatever the restaurant or shop is playing. Always coffee, yes, and I turn off the cell phone. Poetry by hand, then type and revise on-screen. Novels on screen, then print and revise by hand. Color of pens and what I’m wearing is important to the final product, too. When revising a manuscript, I’ll print out all the pages and then jumble them into an incomprehensible order, then revise that way, so I don’t slip into ‘reader mode’. I keep the laptop on and near for research. This weird system is also how I do all of my homework for school. When it comes time to write anything, being at home is my only real block. Sending out manuscripts or poems to editors is also done fully in public, using databases and my own recursive filing system, as well as this wonderful invention, which is keyed to my databases for everything, especially publishing and homework:

    I need to learn to work at home. Badly.

  3. ekswitaj
    June 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I may have to steal that jumbling trick. (Usually, I just read backwards.)

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