DID YOU KNOW?
Sir Walter Scott wrote his poem, Marmion, on horseback, preferring to compose in motion.
Flannery O’Connor munched on vanilla wafers as she wrote.
Truman Capote was a self-professed “horizontal author,” writing on a notepad while prone on his couch or bed. He always wrote drafts 1 and 2 in pencil, then propped a typewriter on his knees to type up draft 3, always on yellow paper.
Then he’d set the draft aside, re-read later and decide whether it was worth submitting. If the answer was yes, he would type it again, this time on white paper.
Edgar Allen Poe balanced a feline companion on his shoulder as he wrote. (What, no raven?!)
It seems that writers through the ages have exhibited all sorts of odd behaviors.
Which got me thinking, what are my writerly quirks?
Well, we haven’t got all day, so here’s a sampling:
I go through a lot of Post-it® notes…
I have always loved colorful sticky notes. During my twenty years as a trainer, I went through piles of them—using them to design sessions, track information, capture ideas, you name it.
So it only makes sense that when I took up creative writing I kept on Post-it®-ing. My writing room is slathered with sticky notes, in odd arrangements on a bulletin board, and stuck to the window casing, directly to the right of my computer.
In view as I write this post: a blue sticky note with, “Let the moment stand and speak for itself” above an orange note that reads, “Good writing is always an unresolved struggle between meaning and music. When in doubt, go with the music. – Richard Hugo (paraphrased).”
Words and ideas dribble in, and I collect the drops and let them gather…
I journal first thing in the morning, and tag (with sticky notes, of course) sections that could be the start of something, or could be added to an existing story, poem or essay. Then I copy the tagged bits and put them in file folders.
My filing system is incomprehensible to anyone but me. Sample labels include, Amor Fati; Paying My Respects; All Roads Lead to Lusk; In Praise of the Half-assed Effort; and Biomimicry.
Eventually these folders call to me and I open them up and finger through the notes. A poem, essay or story coalesces.
No music for me while I’m in my writing room. Too distracting. I’m not strict about silence, and I welcome the bird chirps that filter in from the outside, but I just don’t invite in much sound.
Let me see it…
I’m a visual learner and I’ve discovered that I need to be able to picture places, characters, even emotions as part of writing about them. So, I collect images, snipped from magazines and newspapers. I create collages with stand-ins for my characters, and include landscapes and rooms that I imagine the characters wandering around in.
For the love of a verb…
I collect verbs. I jot them down on a white notepad. When the page is filled, I rip it off and file it in my Bevy of Verbs folder.
Why do I collect verbs?
Hell if I know. I just love good verbs, and by “good” I mean active, sensual, gritty, precise verbs. I admire writing with strong verbs and dislike writing with passive and repetitive verbs, so I guess I’m trying to give my writing brain plenty of material to work with.
CLAIM YOUR QUIRKS
I believe that our quirks are clues to our creative process, and should be respected.
I believe you can experiment with the methods other writers use, but eventually you stumble on your own quirky way of doing things.
As Celia Blue Johnson points out in the introduction to Odd Type Writers,
“… the path to great literature is paved with one’s own eccentricities rather than someone else’s.”
Not feeling particularly quirky?
You can always give the methods of the masters a try. Maybe something will take.
Write an entire story on a scroll, taping the pages together and rolling them up, the way Jack Kerouac did with On the Road.
TRY THIS IN SUMMER
Copy John Cheever’s writing style (clad only in his underwear) or Victor Hugo (who wore only a shawl while composing Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Might want to close the curtains though.
Or make like Edith Wharton, who wrote in bed, wearing a silk nightgown and matching bed cap. Her dog was inevitably curled up at her side and she always wrote in blue ink on pale blue stationary.
When your family asks when you are going to get up, tell them you are exploring your creative process.
A NEW YEAR, A NEW OPPORTUNITY
So, let’s all make it a point in 2017 to enjoy and cultivate our quirky side. I’m betting our writing will benefit from it, and our friends and family will look on in amazement or amusement.
And what are we here for if not to provide amazement and amusement to one another?
What quirks do you have? Come on, tell us…
The following resources were used in this post:
Odd Type Writers by Celia Blue Johnson
Stranger-Than-Fiction Writing Habits of 18 Famous Writers by Baihley Grandison