Habitual

The satisfied, the happy, do not live; they fall asleep in habit, near neighbor to annihilation.  ~Miguel de Unamuno

Truman Capote did it lying down with a drink. John Cheever in his underwear.  Faulkner drank whiskey. Nabokov did it on note cards. Eudora Welty pinned it all together with straight pins. Thomas Wolfe did it leaning over a refrigerator.  Ondaatje did it with scissors and glue.

We writers are an odd bunch, aren’t we?  It’s no wonder people nod and change the subject upon hearing, “I write.”  I can only imagine the images that run through people’s heads.  Dark, quiet rooms lit with a single candle.  Writing on the walls.  Depending on your genre, perhaps even in blood.  Black coffee.  Or booze.  Crazy, unkempt hair and pajama’s worn for days without showering in the midst of a productive run.

They might be close.

Except that I do like to shower. Mostly.

I used to have my own particular writing habits before I moved.  I had a pair of writing, yoga pants that were light weight and unbinding.  I wore them so much that I wore a hole in the backside and they have been since put to rest.  My room painted a dark green for the right atmosphere.  And I would regularly tape notecards to the wall in perfect order, as to change things around as needed.  Also so that I could see the work as a whole, rather than a page at a time.  I’m a little skeptical to do so in a newly painted apartment that I don’t own.  More so, I had a computer with a certain keyboard that had just the right pressure needed to type.

I guess I’m a little picky.

That computer has since died, as so many things did on my move, and I’ve been left trying to recreate my own writing habits without my favorite yoga pants, or keyboard, or walls.

I have found a new pair of pajama pants, heavier, but two sizes too big so that I am comfortable.  I have a new keyboard almost equivalent to the old one.  As far as the walls?  I’m still not okay with taping notecards to huge spans of wall, so I’ve found another solution.

An old mirror propped on a coffee table.  I find that I can sit cross-legged on the table and stare at a huge plot in one place, written in dry erase markers.

I need this.  The ability to see things laid out to make sense of a big project.  Even a little project.  To write notes of description about character that I can keep building on, or erasing, as the story evolves on the page.  Notebooks, as much as I loved them, were never big enough.

So I begin my habits anew, although I suspect that the day will come when I will need to mix them up again.  Because, as in all aspects of my life, stagnation is suicide.

The quote I began this post with was not the one I sought.  Yet, it screamed to me.

The satisfied, the happy, do not live; they fall asleep in habit, near neighbor to annihilation.  ~Miguel de Unamuno

How simple it is to become content in our habits, especially as writers.  But I wonder if it’s a healthy habit, or, as Miguel de Unamuno suggests, near neighbor to annihilation?  Can it ruin writers as they grow in their craft, too comfortable in their happiness and success?  Or should they be changed up a bit.

I admit to loving my habits.  We have a brand new computer in the living room that would be wonderful for writing.  I can’t write there.  Any where outside of the sanctity of my room causes my writing to have that lovely forced feel.  Like a high school kid writing about the science experiment that didn’t turn out. What is reality of habits on the writing life? Should writers be completely adaptable with the ability to write in any circumstance?

I’ve read both sides.  Some people speak of the importance of writing 500 words a day, consistently, to form the habit of writing, like Hemingway.  Others say write only when it feels real, like Charles Burkowski.  What is the answer?

I suppose it depends on yourself, your goals, and who you are.  I’ve decided to take my advice on habits from Anais Nin.

“Do you know what I would answer to someone who asked me for a description of myself, in a hurry? This:
??  !!
For indeed my life is a perpetual question mark–my thirst for books, my observations of people, all tend to satisfy a great, overwhelming desire to know, to understand, to find an answer to a million questions. And gradually the answers are revealed, many things are explained, and above all, many things are given names and described, and my restlessness is subdued. Then I become and exclamatory person, clapping my hands to the immense surprises the world holds for me, and falling from one ecstasy into another. I have the habit of peeping and prying and listening and seeking–passionate curiosity and expectation. But I have also the habit of being surprised, the habit of being filled with wonder and satisfaction each time I stumble on some wondrous thing. The first habit could make me a philosopher or a cynic or perhaps a humorist. But the other habit destroys all the delicate foundations, and I find each day that I am still…only a Woman!”―    Anaïs Nin

These are habits that I can live without questioning.  Regardless of keyboards, yoga pants, or wall space, I’ll live the habit of inquisitive and exclamatory living and that will be the roots of my writing. In the end, isn’t that what writing is about?

Maybe. I’ll revisit the thought tomorrow. It is rather late at night.  You know, I do have the habit of writing after 10:00.

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About author A. Lynn

A. Lynn has enjoyed the craft of writing since she finished the songs in Barry Manilow's songs as a five year old, prancing around her grandparents rural farm. Her style has changed as she's grown up. In the past ten years, she's experimented until finding her style and voice. Now, she's ready to take an effort to share her stories with the world. amberlynnk@yahoo.com View all posts by author A. Lynn

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