Picture this: it’s a crisp fall day and you’re cozy on your couch with a fire crackling in the background. Your cat is cheering you on with her quiet purring as you hurriedly clack away at the keys of your laptop keyboard, your glasses perched studiously on the end of your nose. You have at least another uninterrupted hour before real life will bother you. Oh, and you’re not completely consumed with worry over the actions of the President-elect.
Show of hands—how often does this scenario actually happen?
It sounds glorious, but in actuality, most of my writing tends to take place at the kitchen table in short spurts before or after work. If it’s the morning, I’m usually groggy and the cat is meowing for breakfast. My glasses are smudged and my hair is in complete disarray. I’m constantly aware of time—how much has passed, how much do I have left before I need to make the mad scramble to start the day?
Sure, there have been those special moments where I get close to the daydream, although they’re few and far between. What I’ve found encouraging is that the words I type during the frantic sessions are no less than the words I type in the more blissful scenario.
It’s easy to buy in to the concept of the ideal writing atmosphere. To affiliate the quality of our writing with the atmosphere in which the words are produced. Why else are we so fascinated to learn that Dame Agatha Christie often wrote while taking baths or that the masterful Stephen King writes at least 2,000 words at his desk every morning?
This is why I love things like NaNoWriMo. For those that aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is going on right now. It’s a challenge to pen 50,000 words in 30 days.
NaNoWriMo strives to help folks with a dream of writing get into the habit of putting pen to paper every day. It doesn’t matter if they’re the most brilliant words ever written or utter drivel (in my experience, they’re most often the latter). It’s that at the end of 30 days, you have a complete first draft.
And there’s a reason why NaNoWriMo takes place in the month of November, notoriously one of the busiest months of the year. Because these are the times when it’s hardest to find time to write. It strips away our notion of “perfect” writing times and forces us to come to grips with the reality that maybe there is no ideal writing atmosphere.
While I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, know that I’m with all you NaNoers in spirit, writing at my kitchen table each morning, smudged glasses and all.
Writers, what’s your ideal writing atmosphere? Are you able to make it happen more often than I am? Readers, do you find it interesting to learn behind-the-scenes info on an author’s process?