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.
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