I’ve been thinking about what makes for my ideal writing environment/routine. Everyone’s so different about this. Truman Capote, for example, wrote with a in bed, and as the day wore on switched from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. Robert Stone needs physical order, and he paces with pen in hand when he’s not typing. Me, I need the following:
•I must be caffeinated, but not too caffeinated. Then I’m too amped up to write and tend to post spastically on Twitter instead. By caffeine, I am of course referring to coffee. No fancy lattes or anything like that, just coffee with cream and sugar. Never tea, and never soda. I don’t like teas much. I hate sodas.
• I cannot write when I am hungry. Ever. The slightest hunger is incredibly distracting to me. I like, in fact, to snack while I am writing. If there are chocolate chip cookies involved, so much the better.
• Listening to music while writing sometimes works for me, but sometimes it’s too distracting. The only music I seem to be able to listen to while writing these days: jazz, specifically bossa nova, or Regina Spektor. I never used to be able to tolerate lyrics while writing, but now I can… if it’s bossa nova (and therefore in Portuguese usually) or Regina Spektor. Inexplicable, I know. But something about Spektor’s voice makes me feel creative. The bossa nova tends to fade to the background in a pleasant sort of way. Sometimes I don’t even hear it, and yet the silence if I turned off the music would be distracting.
•I don’t write well longhand unless I’m on a plane, and traveling alone.
•I can write for longer periods of time when I’ve got a keyboard hooked up to my laptop. The laptop keyboard is too small and after an hour or two my forearms and elbows begin screaming at me.
• A clean desk is more conducive to writing than a messy one, but that said, I often write on a messy desk.
•The Internet is like a messy desk where all of your friends hang out. It is my number one distraction. But I do find myself “needing” it to write: I look up definitions and synonyms and I verify facts. My core necessities for writing: Merriam-Webster, Wordnik, Wikipedia, and Google. Alas, Google is the most problematic, as a simple search to check a fact can become a 15-minute one-link-leads-to-another distraction. (As a side note, I’m loving Wordnik, as you can see examples of how words are used…something a lot of dictionaries lack.)
All that said, the most important thing I need to be able to write is a block of time.