Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!


Use whatever works for you

The author William Faulkner famously said that the tools he needed for his work were paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey.

Among the authors I know, chocolate would be high on the list. Music, depending on what works for you – it doesn’t for me. I can’t write to music that has or had words. The nearest I can come is the formless “new age” type of music which I find very useful in freeing the muse. Yet just as many writers like to prepare a playlist related to a particular book, assembling the music on an iPod for easy access.

Then there are what I call rituals. These are the steps you find yourself taking automatically, to settle yourself and the muse down to write.

Morning pages

In “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron recommended writing a few pages every morning about anything that comes to your mind, not necessarily to do with the work in progress. These morning pages can be a freeing-up activity if they work for you.

Rituals can be more mundane, such as tidying the desk, lighting scented candles or playing a game, although the latter should be done to a strict timetable or the writing session can fly by without a word being written. Voice of experience? Now why would you think that? <vbg> Just because I had to banish all forms of Solitaire off my desktop and laptop…

Do you need a particular pen for note-taking, a special colour of scribble pad, or a lucky charm? Make sure you keep them handy.


A sense of place

Sometimes a particular place gets you into the writing mindset. For some it can be the local coffee shop. For J K Rowling, it was a hotel room where she finished the last volume in the Harry Potter series. When I was Established Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre in the Perth hills, I had access to Katharine’s writing studio in the gardens. I even wrote a Tanka (Japanese lyric poem) to mark the experience:

In Katharine’s studio

I search for words.

Pine cones clatter

On to metal roof.

Awakening my muse.

Do you even know what would awaken your muse? The best way to find out is by experimenting. Try writing at different times and in different places. When you discover what works best, keep that time and place sacred and try to write there every day at the same time. Play with scented candles, music, lucky charms, until one or more “click with you, then keep them close by when you’re settling down to write.

Creative writing is not a nine-to-five activity. It’s an art form and requires respect and nurturing. May the muse be with you.


friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

 Australia Day Ambassador 2013

on Twitter @valerieparv

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Comments on: "What do you need in order to write?" (10)

  1. For me, according to my blog today, it’s Aragorn, but I can see candles doing it for some people… 😉

  2. I don’t have any rituals but need absolute peace and quiet. Music, TV, people talking just pull me right out of it. Other noises – birds outside, pot bubbling on the stove, cars passing in the street – don’t worry me. So it’s other voices that distract me from the voices in my head.

  3. The picture is so cute! And yes, through lots of experiments I’ve found my muse.

  4. Louise, me too! It’s voices that bother me. I always say it’s because I’m such a hopeless eavesdropper…

    • Could also be because the voices around you interfere with the ones in your head, Imelda. They do with me.

      • I think they mostly make me stroppy, Valerie! I find at the start of the day, when I’m getting into the swing and burning hot, I quite like to have people around me. I go to the coffee shop and the price is beavering away. But once I’m onto editing, the noise starts to annoy me.

      • Which also shows that we don’t always need the same things at the same times. I can edit in a busier atmosphere, but need quite and calm in order to create new words.

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