It’s occurred to me that I don’t have any magical habits when it comes to sitting down to write. I don’t sharpen scores of pencils like Hemingway. I don’t take long walks like Thomas Wolf. I should for the exercise, but I don’t need it to start writing. Honore de Balzac drank black coffee. I need my coffee first thing in the morning just to get my eyelids to open, never mind pouring out great works like the above authors. If that was the trick I would drink gallons of the black magic.
I used to type on a typewriter and then with the advantages of the computer I found it was just simpler to write and edit with it. I know a few writers who still pound out words on the clacking keys.
I write notes in ink. I find it slows my brain down to the point that my hand can catch up with it. Otherwise I would have notes that not even Sherlock Holmes could decipher. I like to use a blue-black ink, but I am not fussy like Kipling who could not begin writing without the dark ink he favoured. “For my ink,’ he wrote, I demand the blackest and had I been in my father’s house, as once I was, I would have kept an ink-boy to grind my India Ink. All blue blacks were an abomination to my Daemon.”
I draw in India ink, but I use brown black inks, orange, blue, depending on my mood and what is nearest to hand whenever I need to refill my fountain pen and write in my notebooks.
Some writers use different colours of paper for drafts. I wish I had. It would make the drafts visibly easier to spot. Jacqueline Susann drafted on yellow, blue, pink, and then finally the last draft on crisp white paper. I wonder how much the paper would have cost Dumas as he would not even contemplate writing his non-fiction on anything else but rose-coloured paper, novels on blue paper, and his poetry on yellow. His paper bill must have cost a small fortune.
Just like sports players who have rituals so do many writers; I seem to be lacking in them. The oddest rituals I have read of was probably D H Lawrence who climbed his trees in the nude, and Hugo gave all his clothing to his servants with the strict orders that they were not to return the clothing until several hours had passed.
Writing happens when I am out walking the dog, trying to watch a film, eating lunch, and riding the train. It takes over where ever I am. I feel as if I am missing out on the great traditions, but I think I will pass on Edith Sitwell’s habit and lie in a coffin before beginning my day’s work. I would be so terrified that the lid would shut. I suppose my current habit of turning off emails, and shutting down the internet just doesn’t sound as romantic as lying in a coffin.