Most writers have quirks, like typing in the nude or lying on the floor in a prom dress…but sometimes weird gets the job done.
Oh, sorry, did I say write? I meant read. This National Novel Writing Month, you’ll find me in my usual position: curled up in bed or lying in the tub with a good book. More intrepid writers the world over, though, are taking advantage of the early-winter hibernation urge, telling their friends to forget about Margarita Fridays, and undergoing the unthinkable task of writing a whole novel in one friggin’ month.
I don’t think it’s any secret that writers are without fail the weirdest dudes in the room. The whole point behind writing is to reflect the world in a funhouse mirror, trying to tease out details that are hidden during our normal workday glances. And, man, when you coop up a writer with a pinch of cabin fever and a whole lot of plot-development head banging, the kooky really comes out.
Most of the writerly dudes I know are prone to certain, uh, shall we say “eccentriticies” when they’re spending lots of time with the page. Novices to Nobel laureates – the urge is universal.
Friedrich Schiller, for example, wrote with a passel of decomposing apples under his desk, because the smell inspired him. (Inspired him with what? Who knows. I’d submit he was praying they’d ferment into dirt-cheap apple brandy so he could booze away the pain of writing.) Poe only wore black; Cheever could only write in the buff; Carl Sandburg could only write while wearing a green eyeshade – a quirk so bizarrely cool that I’m almost willing to forgive him for writing the Abe Lincoln bio that bored me to tears back in high school.
And while I’m always one for forgiving the foibles of dudes whose accomplishments and literary immortality exceed even the realm of dream for me, the more I talk to fellow writers, the more I realize that this mad practice is still going on.
A quick poll of my literary-minded friends revealed a pretty staggering array of personal dysfunctions. A journalist friend of mine can only write stories after going for a long run, still wearing her sweat-drenched clothes and shoes. An aspiring poet in the outer fringes of my inner circle finds she writes best while balancing a stuffed animal on her head. Heck, a girl I went to college with could only add pages to her honors thesis while lying on the floor wearing an old prom dress.
As for me, the fact that I can’t fit into my old prom dress can probably be blamed on my own writing quirk: I’m incapable of writing on an empty stomach. I can listen to jazz or ambient noise or the sound of seals being clubbed; trap me on an elevator or lay me out on a picket fence, no problem – but if my stomach isn’t actively digesting something, forget you, I’m going home. It can be a six-course tasting menu, an apple, or – in a real pinch – chewing and swallowing my cuticles.
Hey, at least I’m wearing clothes when I do it! (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Cheever.)
In fact, writers are so weird that I’m amazed we don’t have our own reality show yet. In celebration of NaNoWriMo, if you’re of the writerly persuasion, what are some of your goofier quirks?
For more information on National Novel Writing Month, click here.