Monday, August 25, 2014

Weird Things Writers Do

by Holly West

Writers are a weird bunch. I can say this because I'm a writer, right?

Here are some of the weird things writers do:

1) We have an aversion to wearing pants.

When I first discovered this about writers, I couldn't stem the barrage of mental pictures I had of my writer friends sitting around, writing in their underwear. While I'm sure this is the case for some of them, I soon realized that this distaste for wearing pants didn't necessarily mean the total absence of apparel on one's bottom half. Apparently, pajamas, yoga pants, sweats, and shorts, don't count as pants. Given the frightening visions I'd been having, it was a comforting thought, especially since once these articles of clothing were eliminated from the pants category, I understood that I was a pants-less writer too.

I offer you this picture of the pjs I'm wearing now as proof (it's 3pm):

2) We like to eavesdrop.

Not only do we like to do it, it's pretty much part of our job description. I took a writing class a few years back and one of my assignments was to spend an hour in a public place, listening to people's conversations and writing them down. I completed the assignment while on a weekend cruise to Mexico, sitting in one of the ship's common areas. #Protip: Cruise ships are a great for eavesdropping and people-watching.

3) We're actively looking for places to hide the bodies.

Oh wait, you thought I meant--ha ha, of course not. I mean the fictional bodies. 

I'll give you an example: on a ski weekend a few seasons back, I thought of an idea for a murder mystery at a ski resort. I told my ski-mates and before I knew it, we were all on the chair lift, brainstorming good murder methods for the story, passing around a flask of peppermint schnapps.

Good times.

4) And related to point #3, we find inspiration everywhere.

Sometimes the inspiration is small. A couple of months ago I attended trivia night at a local bar. I went to the restroom and after I closed the stall door and sat down (nice visual, eh?) I saw this:

This little detail has appeared in my work-in-progress, of course.

Sometimes, though, the inspiration is big. In my twenties I lived in West Hollywood, nearby a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard where a number of transvestite and transsexual prostitutes plied their trade. One of my neighbors was a transvestite (I'm uncertain whether he was a prostitute) and quite beautiful when he did himself up as a woman. One night, somebody threw a Molotov cocktail into his apartment and he was killed.

I've wanted to write a short story based on this incident for a long time, and now I finally am. Look for it in an upcoming crime fiction anthology. 

5) Writers can write anytime, anywhere, and yet, our writing rituals are sacred.

Writing is one of those endeavors that is hard without actually being hard. I mean, it's no big deal to peck out words and even have them make some sense, right? And yet, it is hard. Finding the motivation to write is particularly difficult, and often, writers resort to tricks to get it done.

Certain elements, whether it be the time, the place, the beverage, the playlist, the props, or a combination of all of these, need to be in place before we can actually sit down and write. It's not true, of course, but writers are masters of work avoidance. That means that all the pieces need to be in place before they can actually write.

For me, that's usually comfy pants (see #1, above), a tidy desk, and a fresh cup of coffee. I have to write at least 500 words in the morning before I do anything else, even eat breakfast, or I run the risk of getting caught in the Internet rabbit hole and never coming out. After I write those first 500 words I allow myself breakfast and a brief look at email, facebook, etc. Then I go back and finish my daily word count, which is usually around 1300 words. I don't know why, but those first 500 words make the difference between having a productive writing day or a day of aimlessly surfing the web.

Conversely, if I happen to be out and about, all I need is a yellow legal pad (Costco has the best ones) and a pen and I can write pretty much anywhere. Okay, so that yellow pad might be a ritual, but I could substitute it with almost any type of paper and I'm good to go.

What about you? Do you have anything weird to add to this list?

Holly West is a crime fiction writer based in Los Angeles. She’s the author of the Mistress of Fortune series, set in late 17th London and featuring amateur sleuth Isabel Wilde, a mistress to King Charles II who secretly makes her living as a fortuneteller. The first in the series, Mistress of Fortune, was published by Harlequin’s Carina Press in February 2014 and its sequel, Mistress of Lies, is forthcoming in Fall 2014. Find her online at hollywest.comtwitter, and facebook.


Peter Hogenkamp said...

I write while I swim laps: 500 meters, then 50 words or so, another 500 meters , then 50 more, and so on until my hands are wrinkled like prunes.

Sue Coletta said...

When an acquaintance is being rude and nasty... Instead of getting involved in a confrontation you go home, base a character on them, and then kill them in an unspeakable way.

Eliza Cross said...

Cute pajama pants! :-) Related to #4, my friends make fun of my habit of always writing down little tidbits of conversation and ideas. They always run for cover when I pull my Moleskine and pen out! Great post.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

Yoga pants are a must!