If I was to give this post a subtitle I would call it "Rituals of writing: Staff of power. Eye of newt. Papyrus of magical notebook. Pencils of Pulitzer prize bring to me the tools that will bring out the NY Times Best selling book that lives inside."
Writers and would-be-writers are almost always curious about the rituals of other writers. There is a sense that there is something in the tools and rituals of successful writers that if we just use the same notebooks and J.K. Rowling that perhaps we too will write our own Harry Potter. And I am no different. Whenever I have attended writing conferences, workshops and seminars people have two questions that always come up:
1) How do I get an agent? (this is a question not to mock. It is a question I continue to wrestle with like Joseph did that angel. But it probably more important to have written something before you ask that question.)
2) How do you write? (i.e. what are the specific rituals of your writing.)
I love it when writers reveal their writing tools. I would rather learn if they write longhand on graph paper, legal pads or college lined rule or maybe on notebooks that they can only find at one old-timey stationary store in the upper-east side of NYC than to hear their most salacious secrets (okay, once I learn about their writing rituals then I would happily hear their scandal stories but only after learning what is their pen of choice).
Hearing this stuff always feels a little like hearing about the magician’s secrets only better as learning their secrets doesn't ruin the literary magic, rather it somehow makes it feel possible to make your own magic – if only you had the right tools. I have, I kid you not, upon learning that a favorite writer favors a certain kind of pen, gone out and bought a dozen in hopes that this kind of pen would work for me in the way it worked for famous author X.
When I started writing I was inspired by the work of Anaïs Nin so I wrote in journals - but not ordinary journals. I had old-fashioned cloth finished accounting journals. I remember writing through the margins and filling the pages with process, prose and prattle and at some point the over-sized journals no longer worked for me. To write in them felt like when you are holding hands the wrong way – you know how you have a way, your thumb is always on the outside and this time it isn't and you have to adjust it or it just feels wrong – well that is what happened with me and the accounting journals. I graduated to black and white marbled composition books. I would buy five or six at a time and I often had four or five going on different themes or story ideas.
It wasn't until well into my second decade of writing that I began to write on a computer and at first I wrote the first draft longhand and then transcribed my rough draft to the computer and began to edit once the rough draft was safely saved.
I keep my MacBook on 24 hours a day just in case inspiration strikes. I could not stand to have to wait to boot it up, by the time it started I might have lost the thought that came to me at 3 a.m. And no matter where I am I always carry a half-dozen pens in my purse (I wish I was over exaggerating) and I am never-ever-ever without a small notebook. I think that moving from thinking I might like to be a writer to being a writer occurred when I started always having a notebook with me. I think that being prepared for ideas at any time made me more open to having more ideas.
Mostly I write sitting on my Crate and Barrell sofa. I don’t have an office or a writer’s desk – and even when I did I hardly ever used it. I like to curl up in the corner of the couch with my furry writing assistant, my West Highland White Terrier.
But I will write anywhere that inspiration strikes. I write in my car, my bathtub, and/or anyplace that inspiration strikes. And, if it comes to it I will write on anything and with anything – even, in an extreme emergency, with my husband’s Hewlett Packard laptop.
About Belette Rouge: Belette is a writer, a psychotherapist and the author of the blog La Belette Rouge. She has studied creative writing at UCLA and has published essays and short stories. You can find her fourteen-part series “Writing in Valencia” on her blog in which she proves you don’t have to be in Paris to be inspired by your muse.
Belette is presently at work on her memoir “Thursdays with Igor”. Her writing will soon be featured in “The Forgotten Patient”. She lives in Valencia, California with her husband and her dog-aughter Lily, a West-Highland White Terrier.