My Writing Must Haves: Silence and Solitude
For some, their writing must haves are a a double-shot of espresso and a spot at the coffee shop near the power outlet. I am definitely not one of those writers. For one thing, just a regular cup of coffee gives me the jitters (I’m more of a tea lady), and for another, I can’t write in coffee shops.
I’ve always wished I could. Writing in a coffee shop seems so writerly. But with the music playing and the blenders whirring and other people having conversations, I get way too distracted. I can answer emails in a coffee shop, but work on my novel? No way.
What I need in order to write fiction is to be at home, by myself. It’s the only way I can disappear into the world of my characters. My writing must haves are silence (even the library is too loud) and solitude. I have trouble, for example, writing fiction when my husband is home, even if he’s not making any noise. Simply knowing he’s nearby takes me out of my imagination, and I lose focus on my writing.
More Writing Must Haves: Time and Tea
It didn’t used to be a problem, finding quiet time to be alone with my writing. Up until nine months ago, I usually had a few hours in the morning – after my husband left for work and before I left for my job – when I could leisurely make myself a cup of tea then sit down at my laptop to write.
It became so much of a routine that I started to think I could only write in the mornings. I felt like I needed a cup of tea before I could put any words on the page, and I thought I had to have at least an hour and a half, preferably two, or else I wouldn’t be able to “get into” my writing.
Then I had a baby. Gone were my leisurely mornings. Gone was my quiet alone time. And I realized, if I continued to cling to all of those things I thought I must have – two hours at home, by myself, every morning, with a cup of hot tea – I might never write again.
Are They Really Musts?
And for the first few months of my baby’s life, I didn’t do much writing other than a few blog posts.
But now my daughter is eight months old and has settled into a predictable nap schedule. She has a morning one and an afternoon one, and they are normally forty-five minutes long (or, if I’m lucky, a whole hour). So I decided a few weeks ago I was ready to start a new novel, and that I was going to use her nap times to write it.
And, as it turns out, I’m able to get “into” my writing in less than an hour. I might only write a few paragraphs, but it’s something.
Often, during my daughter’s morning nap, I’ll read what I wrote the previous day and brainstorm a bit. By that time, she’s usually awake. I’ll let my thoughts percolate while the baby and I run errands, do chores, and eat lunch, so that when I put her down for her afternoon nap, I’m ready to jump back into my fictional world and pound out a page or two. Yes, that’s right: turns out I can write in the afternoons.
I’ve also started doing a baby swap. I watch another woman’s baby once a week for two hours, and, in exchange, she watches mine. Unfortunately, she doesn’t live as close to me as I would like. If I were to drop the baby off then drive all the way back home, it would seriously cut into my writing time. So, last week, after I dropped off my daughter, I went to the nearby library.
It was late afternoon, and I didn’t have any tea. The man at the desk next to me was snoring, and a group of teenagers were talking loudly. But I said to myself, “Eva, this is your time to write. Conditions aren’t perfect, but you’re going to ignore these distractions and spend this time working on your novel. You must.”
And guess what. I did.
What Are Our Writing Must-Haves Really About?
I still think my ideal writing situation is at home, alone, and I still think I write best in the morning. But I realize that my writing must haves were habits I mistook for necessities. They’re my preferences, but I don’t actually need them in order to write.I realize my writing 'must haves' are habits I mistook for necessities. I don't NEED them to write.Click To Tweet
I wonder if the fact that I now have less time to write will help me be more efficient with the time I do have. Less checking of Facebook and more clickity-clack of the keyboard.
Maybe I could even try writing in a coffee shop…. On second thought, no. I don’t think that will ever work for me. Which is funny, because there are some people I know who say their writing must have is the white noise crowded coffee shop. Unlike me, they say they need to be out of their house or else they get distracted.
Maybe our writing must haves are really just roadblocks we put between ourselves and the difficult creative work ahead. Maybe, if we recognize these roadblocks for what they are, we can push them out of the way to find more time and opportunities to write.Maybe our writing 'must haves' are roadblocks we put b/n ourselves and the difficult work ahead.Click To Tweet
As silly as it sounds, I was really proud of myself the other day when I wrote several pages next to the snoring man at the library. It made me hopeful that with practice I’ll get better and better at taking a quick dive into my fictional world, no matter where I am, no matter what time of day it is, and no matter what noises the person next to me is making.
What about you? What do you always think you need in order to write? Is it possible you might not really need them after all?
Bethany A Johnson says
Very true! Love your posts, Eva!
Liz Rufiange says
Eva—I love how you consider that having less time might make you more efficient! I never thought of it like this before and I usually get really bummed out when I look over my plans for the day and see that I’ll only have a half hour to write that day. Thank you for this!! It’s given me a whole new way to think about and approach my writing. 😊
Thanks, Liz! It’s still a struggle for me. It’s so easy to spend baby’s nap time checking email and Pinterest and facebook and all those other little time sucks. I’m still learning how to be disciplined enough to take the forty-five minutes and dive into my writing. But when I do it, I’m always so glad I did!