|Truman Capote "writing"|
In the book The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes there is a chapter entitled: Should You Write in the Nude?
When I first dove into the chapter I thought it was meant as a metaphor like how to reveal your soul with your words or learn how to take criticism as if you were standing bare naked in front of an audience. But, no, he was being quite literal. Here's the lead in to the chapter:
"Early in his career, John Cheever put on a business suit, then went from his apartment to a room in the basement where he hung his suit on a hanger and wrote in his underwear. Victor Hugo's servant took away his clothes for the duration of the author's writing day. James Whitcomb Riley had a friend lock him in a hotel room without clothes so that he couldn't go out for a drink until he had finished writing."
Apparently some writers like to write in as little clothing as possible, believing it will take away the temptation to slip out the back door and go hang out with real live people instead. Or perhaps they just like to be as comfortable as they can be in the semi-privacy of their home in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. The idea being that since they likely won't go out in public undressed, they will stay in and get their work done instead.
Yet others subscribe to the philosophy that writing is a job like any other and you should get up and get dressed (this includes the brushing of hair and teeth and perhaps even applying make-up) and keep to a schedule. I've not encountered too many sharply dressed writers to be honest. I think in this instance jeans, flip-flops and a t-shirt counts as making an effort.
The chapter emphasizes that the preference for clothes or no clothes while writing is a product of personality. It's all part of the creative mind's attempt to psych us up into a writing frenzy by associating the ritual with the work. But it's not the only habit writers employ. Keyes quotes Elie Wiesel, author of Night, in this chapter as saying:
"'Writing is so personal, so profoundly and terribly personal. Your entire personality goes into every word. The hesitation between one word and another is filled with many centuries, much space. And you deal with it one way, because of what you are, and somebody else deals with it another way. There are no rules. Even technically, some writers need all kinds of idiosyncrasies. One took a wet cloth to his forehead; another had to get drunk; a third had to take drugs; Hemingway stood,
another was sitting,
another was lying.'"
Writers will do anything to psych themselves up to write. But unlike when The Courage to Write was published (1995), writers today have a new distraction to deal with -- the internet. Now we can go out and play in our pajamas, and no one knows but us. Well, unless you have skype on, or have one of those creepy hacker types take over the webcam on your computer so they can watch you (it happens). For that reason alone I recommend clothes. Or at least a thick bathrobe. Or maybe a piece of tape over the camera lens. The point is the internet has become the modern "back door escape" that can rob us of our word count. And it's especially potent because it's incorporated into the machine we work on. Gah!
But as a species writers have adjusted. Some write their first drafts by hand in a notebook far away from the computer, a few head out (clothed) to coffee shops without wi-fi to avoid LOL cats and Twitter streams, while others end up writing five minutes, checking e-mail for five minutes, writing five minutes, checking e-mail for five minutes (these people tend to be in query hell). Hey, whatever works.
Writers are odd. We all have our quirks and writing rituals that help get us into the zone for writing. I'll share one of mine. I have to play online Boggle before I can write. At least one game. It's weird, I know, but it helps me transition off the internet and set my mind to write. Once I do it I tend to get to work and stay at work until I reach a word count I can live with. It's just my weird writer "thing".
So what about you, have any rituals? Are you a naked writer? If so, please, please don't also be a standing-upper who likes to work in front of the bay window.
For further reading on odd writers check out this article at Flavorwire.