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Spill the Dirt: What's Your Writing Vice?

Question of the day: I'm curious - I know it's sort of a silly question - but do you have any writing rituals or anything that you have to have/do before or while writing?

Oh, what a fun question and a fun change of pace! Readers, PLEASE reply with your own rituals and vices below - I'd love to hear them. 

When I first read this question, I thought, "Hmmm, no, nothing comes to mind," but then, as I actually started my writing for the day, I realized how wrong this was! To begin with, I have to surf to all my requisite websites before I dive into the manuscript. So I take 20 or so minutes in the AM (okay, maybe more) to flit around the web...if I don't, I honestly have that feeling you get when something is nagging at you to get done but you can't quite remember what it is. I dunno. I just like to cross of my xs and know what's been happening in the world overnight or else, in the back of my mind, I'm distracted by wondering.

The only other vice I think I have is that - and this sounds weird, probably - I have to be chewing gum while I write. Seriously. That's weird, isn't it? Preferably, Orbit Bubblemint, but if I'm in a pickle, anything will do. I have stashes of it in and around my office, so I can always pop two pieces in (I'm a two piece at a time chewer) and start typing. Maybe there's something meditative about it or maybe it's just habit, but either way, I definitely keep Orbit in business. :)

What about you guys? This could extract some really fun answers. Anyone willing to share his or her own vices?

Reader Comments (24)

This IS fun!

I can only write or do heavy editing when no one else is in the house.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Oh, it's going to be fun to hear about everybody's maybe somewhat wonky rituals. :-)

I myself need to start writing in bed: sitting with my back against the wall, a pillow on my lap, my laptop on the pillow, a cup of hot tea and some chocolate within reach. I need to be warm and cozy, able to snuggle into comfort - then I'll snuggle right into creativity.
Of course, I can't sit like that for a long time and not have back-spasms afterwards, so I move it to the desk after about an hour. By that time I'm deeply in my writing-zen, though, so that teeny interruption makes no difference.

There was a post not too long ago on Storytellers Unplugged dealing with rituals that help get into the writing-zen:

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPia Newman

Fun questions -- and fun answers so far!!

Hmm, let's see. I suppose it's more of a preference than an absolute, but I definitely like the house to be silent when I'm writing. Sometimes I'll listen to a specific song before diving in (I keep a 'soundtrack' for each project), but during the actual writing time, I really, really prefer quiet. I also do my writing first thing in the day and can't imagine it any other way. I've always been a morning person and have found that it definitely works best for me. Sitting at my desk (deliberately positioned in front of a window), looking out at the brand new day ... it's inspiring!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShari

Judy, I wouldn't get anything done with a mantra like that. lol. I'm almost always surrounded by chaos.

I understand the need to chew while writing. I think it helps get the brain juices flowing and/or is a good way to release emotional tension. I either chew gum or snack on stuff (I try to keep it healthy; today I'm munching on almonds and sunflower seeds). If that's not enough -- like if the scene is especially intense -- I have to get up and pace every few minutes or I'll implode.

And I also get all my internet stuff out of the way first thing in the morning while sipping my coffee. If I don't, the fact that I haven't done it yet will distract me.

Fun post. :)

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLydia Sharp

It's funny, I never eat while I'm writing. Well, hardly ever. When I get in the zone it's the only time I'm not thinking about food! I always have a glass of water or cup of tea, however. Thanks for the article, Pia - I'll have to work on creating a little ritual that helps me get into it - that's the hardest part is starting!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaela

I am much better at getting going, especially on a freelance project I'm not excited about, if I have Twizzlers. It is the only time I love them. I think the juiciness gets my brain juicy too.
I think I do other weird things too, like I can't be at all cold. Now I'm going to be watching myself very carefully.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEliana

I have to have my feet warm. This morning when I got up to write, and most mornings actually, my feet are bare and freezing so I have to throw a blanket over them while I sit at the dining room table. But by the end of my writing session the blanket is thrown off onto the floor, my feet have been warmed by then.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

i write all my stories as screenplays first. i have to watch the movie in my head in order to write it.
and i have to have something physical from the story. For Pizza Girls it was a bb pistol that looks just like a real gun.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwilliam@3storybooks

I have to have snack (chips, candy). I listen to rap before I write and I listen to Trance while writing. I also fiddle around the web before writing like checking twitter And Facebook. The URL wouldn't work so here is the link to my blog

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCameron A.

I love music when I'm brainstorming a scene, but need complete silence when it comes time to write the scene.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim Harrington

I need two things to start writing. The first is big cup of coffee. the second is a pair of long, fingerless gloves. The coffee is standard for writers I know, but the gloves are a new obsession. About a year ago I started getting really irritated by how my forearms got cold while I was typing. I don't know why, something about the way they rested on my cold glass desk. So I dug out a green felt pair of fingerless gloves that my sister gave me once and was instantly hooked. I live in LA, so I never really have cause to use gloves outside. They live on my desk.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterApril Davila

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who chews two pieces of gum at a time. Not while I'm writing, but just in general. Great post!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeg Mitchell Moore

I need: music on repeat (this week is Hang With Me by Robyn), good coffee, a seat facing in a certain direction (if i could figure out which way life would be easier), and the promise of wine somewhere down the line.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaura dave

I need to have my noise-canceling headphones on, and while I can listen to my iPod, I prefer Pandora, because I that I never know what's next. I need to get some basic web posting/surfing done for the day: a minimum of doing a daily FB (regular and author pages) and Twitter post, commenting on FB posts or Tweets that leap out at me at that sitting, commenting on the Deb Ball post of the day, If it's evening, I MUST first do the NYTimes crossword puzzle for the next day -- it posts at 7:30pm PST. If I've missed any NYT crossword puzzles, I get OCD and have to catch up first. I like having a big cup of coffee and sometimes a snack or gum -- though I try to avoid the gum b/c it doesn't always sit well with me... probably because I go through it like a fiend, chewing 2 pieces at a time for 5 minutes each, then chucking the wad and starting over.

And THEN... I write.

It's really a wonder I get anything done...

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElise Allen

What a fun post! I have to put my hair in a ponytail before I write, otherwise I can't do it. I recently got bangs and now I have to pin them back. I definitely can't write if anyone is in the room.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Sarno

These are so much fun to read! I, too, have to be warm while writing, so the heat is always cranked up in my office, and I often have the hood up on my sweatshirt. :) I don't have fingerless gloves, but I do have a lot of running sweatshirts which have little slots for my thumbs and allow me to pull the sleeves mostly down my hands. Love them.

Melissa - I pull my hair back too! Good one!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Winn Scotch

In the colder months, I have to wear my favorite hot pink fleece when I'm writing, which is almost always in the same spot -- a cozy leather chair in the corner of my living room, right next to the window. Like Allison, I also *must* surf my favorite websites before I can settle my mind down to business. Looks like there are some really interesting vices we all have!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen Salamon

I have actually gotten some great tips from some of these rituals!

For me, I have to write in a notebook first, and then transfer it to the computer for the second draft. This allows me to literally put pen to paper, and also to be able to read everything fresh when it comes time to make some changes and edit for the second draft.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda White

Each morning, I must walk through the unfinished house my husband and I have been forced to stop building (since the economy has clobbered my business). By walking through the open, framed structure, I'm motivated ... because, dang it, some day, I want to WRITE (and live) in that house that we've already put our hearts and souls into. I envision myself in my new 'office' and, don't you know ... I'm ready to write when I get back to my desk. Someday, I WILL write in my new house.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Crytzer Fry

I typically drink coffee and procrastinate for about twenty years. Then I'm all business.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHaakon Dahl

I think I discovered a new ritual tonight as I went to a local bakery, Panera Bread, to kick off Nanowrimo. I sat right by the gas fireplace and the heat felt amazing and lulled me into a happy, warm writing zone. I just kept going and going....will definitely go back soon!

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I write notes and outlines best by hand and outside, so when I'm preparing a story I almost always go to the ocean with a Moleskine and jot everything down. While it's all percolating I keep the same notebook with me at all times, and write any quotes or snippets I come up with – writing it outside of that one notebook messes me up. Once I'm actually writing the meat, I prefer to be wearing basically nothing. It sounds weird, but I feel less constrained when I'm half naked. As a result I almost always have a very small office with a space heater so I can crank it way up until it feels like a sauna to anyone else entering. For non-fiction and articles music helps me get energy, but I can't write to anything with lyrics, so I generally write to post-rock (the album Explosions in the Sky did for Friday Night Lights is my current favorite) or classical (generally Bach) or contemporary cello/violin. For fiction I need absolute silence, although between bursts of writing I will put an album on to recharge my creative juices.

Interesting analyzing my own little rituals, and seeing what everyone else does too. I may have to try gum!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrendan McGuigan

I'm exactly like you Allison! I have to clear out my inbox and sift through my rss reader for anything interesting I want to read (I may indulge in a cup of tea as well depending on the season). I also need to be chewing gum. There's just something about gum that instantly puts me in a writing mode (habit? The fact that I chewed a lot of gum during long writing workshops? Who knows?).

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

I hate gum, but chewing helps me too (or I think it does...) Makes me less anxious. Enter: Starburst. (Enter: weight gain. Sigh.)
I also need silence, and will pop earplugs in if necessary.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

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