I’m a writer. Before you get this idea that I’m also a broke, reclusive, eccentric, pyjama wearing, cat-loving, coffee (or alcohol) guzzling creature, as author stereotypes commonly go, let me tell you what ten things I really do when I write.
Procastinate: This step is actually the prequel and interval/s of any writing session and as such, is not one of the 10 habits. It involves important things like keeping up to date on social media, watching epic fail or cat videos for inspiration, making cups of tea for alertness, testing alertness by checking that the oven is off, hanging the wash for fine motor skills and stretching, tidying the desk to encourage an uncluttered mind, and so on. This step takes a considerable amount of time and is sometimes confused with step 3. It is not the same.
My actual writing habits are as follows:
- Make Faces: Scrunched up mouth and nose, furrowed brow, arched eyebrows, self-satisfied smile, tongue stuck out, biting lip, pursed lips … the variations are endless.
- Talk to Self: Whether it’s mouthing the words, or speaking them aloud, this is an essential strategy for answering the “Does it sound right?” question.
- Thinking Zone: Non writers may call this Stare Into Space, but writers know this as the Thinking Zone. It involves a blank look, tilting the head to one side, staring into space (aka Blank Page or Bloody Blinking Cursor), and thinking about what to write next. Or how to stop staring into space. Either way, it involves thinking.
- Lightbulb Moment: AKA the “A-ha!” moment, in which a plot line or loose threads fall into place, and writing can continue. Writers move from the Thinking Zone into the Lightbulb Moment and steps 1 and 2 recommence.
- Act Out: Sometimes it’s necessary to act out or rehearse dialogue, though writers generally stop short of acting out entire scenes, especially if they involve murder or sex (though I can’t speak for everyone on the latter). For my part, I am prone to reading through the dialogue, sometimes in different tones of voice. As for scenes, I will visualise: Is the hero cupping the heroine’s head when he leans in for the kiss? Or holding her in the small of the back.
- Shake it Out: The opposite of the “A-ha!” moment, this is more like “WTF is this crap?” and is characterised by a head shake and in extreme cases, foul language, followed by rapid pressing of the delete button, steps 1-5 in various order.
- Fade Out: Most writers don’t have the luxury of a wood-panelled study, log cabin in the woods, or dusty garret in Paris, so we have to compete with various other noises and interruptions. In my case, it’s five other people and a cat sharing my space. My technique is to listen to music with headphones on and I have created a “Writing Playlist” for this purpose. Unfortunately, I usually get as far as putting on the headphones before steps 1-6 kick in, and belatedly realise I forgot to press play.
- Facilitate Writing Appreciation: In addition to steps 2 and 5, writers like to read their work to anyone unlucky enough to be in the same room when a spot of writing appreciation is desired. If the non-writer is lucky (although this is debatable), he or she may be allowed to sit in the special chair and display their reading prowess, while the writer paces around and pretends facial expressions are not being observed. This writer has also tried to engage a series of teddy bears in writing appreciation, but sadly, they remained poker faced.
- Become BFFs with Google: Non-writers who check out any writer’s search history will be scared, weirded out, shocked, amused and confused. Why exactly did I look up “weird French foods”, “romantic wedding proposals”, “MYER online sale today”, “villas in Tuscany”, “massage office chairs” and “1990s pop stars”?
- Blank out: This is not the same as Thinking Zone. It is how I am feeling right now because I can’t think of a step 10. Knowing my luck, step 4 will occur as soon as I press the publish button.
I also rub on Tinderbox Mythic Muse creme perfume before I write and the house has to be tidy. But that’s just me.
Writers, can you relate?