Friday, April 11, 2008

Part I: What's Your Writual?

Here's a great story today on the BBC, describing the writing rituals (writuals) of some famous Irish authors.

I thought I'd take a go at the questions myself.

Where are you?
Although I have a gorgeous library desk made of quarter-sawn oak that I bought using some money from my first book, I often sneak back into my bedroom to write on a ratty old sewing table that the former owners of our first home left behind. I suppose it was too disreputable to accompany them in their move upwards. I love the skinny drawer in the table, just big enough to hold a thimble-full of secrets. I wrote most of my book on that table, and it sits in front of a tiny window that has a great view of the mountains. I like to place fresh flowers I buy at the summer farmer's market in that sill.

What are you writing with?
Like most everyone else, I write on a laptop. I can take me Darlin' Gwenevere wherever I please, including the coffee shop, holiday, etc. But what I love best is to write in longhand. I feel most connected to my wicked subconscious when my hand is racing across the page and I see my own script. I'm fussy about the whole process. I love fountain pens, and picking out ink. And the pad of paper I use, while inexpensive and readily available at the office supply, must be thick enough not to bleed. Can't stand to use any fancy journals, as I find myself stilted by the prospect of writing something good enough to slip between the leather covers.  

What's the oddest object in front of you?
I'll change the question to say "What is the most 'unusual' object in front of you?" Directly on the wall above my desk I have pieces of wood with some Santos (saints) painted on them. They're primitive and loving and make me feel like I'm back in New Mexico where I bought them.  

I'll continue this post next time.  How about you?  What are some of your writuals?  


A Novel Woman said...

I write on the kitchen table whilst sitting on a wooden kitchen chair. It's damaging my shoulders and hips, yet I continue. The alternative is the desk in my bedroom which hurts my shoulders even more than the table.

I love fountain pens, but I write only with my laptop (another ergonomic no-no) and I see that lovely turquoise ink in your photo. Oooh, that's sweet. And a glass pen. I've seen them in specialty stores in Quebec City and I might get one. Funny, but I do the same thing with the "good" journals. I leave them blank. It's like using good china, or my best silk pajamas. The fact that I can't bring myself to use them means I don't think I'm deserving enough, right?

So let's get out our very best journals and use them!

The most unusual thing on my desk/table? Hmm. I have a record appraisal CD by Mighty John, and a slice of natural river rocks, all fused into a glob. And probably a bit of this morning's oatmeal.

I think you should post a photo of your desk and your view. Nosy readers want to see.

Amy Dupire said...

Most unusual thing on my desk?
an owl pellet.

I love your santos!


Lottery Girl said...

Dear NW:

All the glass pens I've seen come from Venice in a wide variety of stunning colors. Very hard to pick just one! Mine doesn't actually write very well--makes big blobby script at first, then peters out. But I love it anyway. One of these pen places sells a glass pen that doesn't have a steel nib, but a glass nib that looks a bit like a screw. When you dip, the ink travels up the "threads" of the screw-like nib, and supposedly it writes well.

As far as the nifty journal is concerned, I had the same thought as you until I read Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones. She says to buy the cheapest spiral notebook you can, and don't even pay attention to the lines or the margins in it. The idea is that you are giving yourself permission to write the worst crap ever--anything you desire. It was like magic for me, and I wrote 8000 words in November. I always write my best stuff on paper first. Now, I have no interest whatsoever in using any of the fancy journals. The only time I've ever done so was when we took a big family vacation to Europe, and I kept track of what we did.

I'll post photos of the desks in the next installment just for you.

Lottery Girl said...


Mmmm! Owl pellets! You are such a homeschooling mom. I know 'cause I used to have owl pellets also. Sadly, they were lost in the move. (HAHA)

Martha Kirby said...

Writuals--sheesh--it's been about (what month is this?) 3 months I guess since I've written anything, and now of course I've packed up all my books except the Thesaurus and the Rhyming Dictionary. (sigh)

I write on a desktop in the corner of the computer room, currently littered with stacks of Tom's books, empty boxes, packed boxes, 3 or 4 drums, 3 large Rubbermaid containers which may or may not have been sorted through yet, two battered file cabinets and one remaining bookcase (of the four that were in there 'til Saturday). Let's just say NOT CURRENTLY CONDUCIVE to any activities other than sighing, the occasional lapse into hebephrenia and packing, packing, packing. Well, and drinking . . .

In a Right World, on the computer desk there's a little oast house magnet on the spindly little lamp perched on the very outermost corner of the workspace (regularly knocked over by The Little Cat), and I'm fronted by my books--the afore-mentioned Rhyming Dictionary (Penguin) and Thesaurus (Roget's, several pages merely slipped into place but I shall not, I will not purchase another copy--ever), The Dictionary of Symbolism, The Dictionary of Religious Terms, The Dictionary of Architecture, the BCP, the Bible, and the Dictionary of Art Terms. My Dearest Ones: may I see thee again someday.

On top of the 'puter are two little cardboard placeholders we saved from Dinner Group a year or so ago with our UU Jihad Names on them--it's been so long since I've seen them I can't remember our names right now, but I think Tom's reads "The Rev. Brother Machine Gun of Loving Kindness" and mine is something like "Sister Jackhammer of Warm Compassion". Taped to the edge of the 'puter is a dorky picture of Tom on his 39th birthday, wearing a big sombrero with cake smeared all over his face. At least half of that visual is not a once-a-year occurrence.

Actually, I don't think any of that qualifies as the most unusual thing on my desk--I guess the wireless router would be, since--to me at least--it doesn't really fit in with anything else there.

When I'm working, I write between 3:30-6pm M-F, sometimes on a Saturday morning and/or Sunday afternoon. Most usually, outside of the M-F times, if something percolates up, that's when I write--at least the phrase if nothing else.

When I'm looking for inspiration, I read through many of my reference books. Most of my inspiration comes from a throw-away phrase I may hear, or one of my collaborators will tell me what the subject matter they want me to work with.

What removes my concentration? EVERYTHING! ANYTHING! ALL THINGS!

What do I listen to? NOTHING. The lyrics gig requires that I not get siphoned off into a rhythmic pattern different from what I'm working on. Occasionally, I'll go to the Cyber Hymnal website to hear a tune with a similar meter just so I can get the rhythm in my head. With the secular lyrics gig, I set my own rhythm and then Henry fusses with it, and then asks me to wrangle some words around to fit whatever meter he's come up with.

Is there anyone else in the room? Not usually. Jake's usually holed up in his room and Tom works 'til 7pm; Aaron's at college. The Little Cat is a constant presence, but only a nuisance when she sprawls out across the workspace (3' x 6"), sending the spindly lamp and the oast house magnet bouncing off the couch and onto the floor and trash can.

Thanks for reminding me about your blog, Pink! Great pix, too! We've 10 more days 'til flying off to Cedar Rapids; I'll be sure to send e's to my peeps about the candidating process. We'll know for certain-sure if Tom has the job May 11. House goes on the market May 12.

Lottery Girl said...

Dear Martha,

Thanks a million for stopping in, and thanks for your marvelous post. You write so beautifully. It will be great when you get all squared away and can get back to it.

Don't forget--You MUST enter the poetry contest this year. Deadline is September 1 or so. You WILL win.

Love ya!