Friday, April 6, 2012

Special Pens and Kitchen Floors

In everyday life, I'm not a particularly superstitious person.  If I see a black cat I'm probably just going to pet it, and I don't avoid cracks on sidewalks or throw salt over my shoulder.  I'm not sure I'd even say I'm superstitious when it comes to writing, but in thinking about this topic it occurred to me that, perhaps oddly for people who are deeply interested in words and meanings, the lines between the words superstition and routine can be slightly blurred for writers, or at least it can for me.

There are a few things I feel I need to have around me in order to work at my best, but honestly this is the first time I've ever wondered whether my rituals cross over to superstitions in the sense that my writing might be different if my habits were.  And, thinking back to CODA, I did do some pretty strange things, like…:

  • Every single handwritten note I jotted down during CODA drafting was written with the same pen.  The only times I've used it since were to sign my agency contract and my book deal.  I lost it a couple of times during drafting, and freaked out until I found it again.
  • Then, and now, when I have difficulty getting the words to flow, I sit on the kitchen floor to write.  I have no explanation for why this works for me, but it does.
  • No matter what I'm writing, but perhaps more with CODA than anything else I have written or will write, I have to have the right music.  There have been many times when I couldn't get a specific scene to make sense until I've found the right soundtrack for it. 
  • During key parts of a draft, I'll write with my eyes closed.  Shutting out the real world makes it easier to see the one I've created, I guess, or maybe I just don't get distracted by realizing I need to vacuum. 
  • I have a "drafting mug."  Like many writers, I basically exist on caffeine and nerves, and my drafting mug was given to me by a friend who knows my habits.  I don't use it unless I'm working on a book, like actually sitting down and writing.  When I'm done writing for the day, the mug is, too.

That's all I can think of, and let's set aside the fact that I sound like a complete freak now, shall we?  Thank you.  Whether the above things were/are "lucky" for me or just comforting rituals, I think they're important as long as I don't go too far and let them hinder me.  My favorite comfy yoga pants might be awesome for writing in, but they're in no way fit for public viewing if I want to go write at a coffee shop or in the park, and I definitely can't take the kitchen floor there, so I have to remember that the only really essential things for finishing this book are me and something to write with--be it a laptop, a notebook, a sharpie on my forearm, whatever. 

But, for now, I'll keep making notes with my new WIP's lucky pen.

Emma T.


  1. I get attached to certain pens too, Emma--though not so much to floors. On my current WIP I'm using a kind of pen I've never used before, and I'm suddenly very attached to it. Last book, I used a pencil, of all things. I tried to do that this time, but the pen won out. Go figure!

  2. Emma, I had to laugh at the image of you, all hunched over your keyboard on the kitchen floor, madly pounding on the keyboard! This was a neat post, thanks! I don't get attached to places or mugs or anything, but I'm like you when it comes to music. It has to be just right!

  3. I get what you're saying. I'm very superstitious about routines. I have to do things a certain way each day (e.g. breakfast, write, workout, clean house, write) in order to declare it a "good writing day." Totally whacked, I know. ;-)