My Writing Habits

I mostly hate when writers write about writing. But it’s the night before my 31st birthday, so fuck it. Aside from some conversations I’ve had with my therapist, I’ve never formally examined my writing habits.

I realized while redesigning my website that as a writer I’m somewhat prolific. Not Stephen King prolific, but I’m definitely no Harper Lee. I have about seventy erotic stories posted here, and the oldest one was published on Nifty in 2001. That works out to about seven or eight stories a year.

But I either sit on or trash at least 25% of what I write. Right now I have a backlog of about fifteen unfinished or unrevised (and potentially salvageable) stories. And in the past year, the majority of the erotic fiction I’ve produced hasn’t gone on my website. I’ve been hoarding stories, both for Backwoods and for a mythical single-author anthology of my work that’s going to be published in my dreams some day.

I don’t write year round. I go through cycles. I’d say it’s only been a year or two where I’ve been comfortable with this. Before that, in my off cycles, I would get frustrated and tormented. I did a lot of “not-writing”, i.e. obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t writing instead of (a) doing it or (b) doing something else. Now when I don’t feel like writing I don’t force myself. I can get by without writing for entire seasons, but if I’m not doing anything creative, I start to get antsy and depressed. So I do other things that fill that void, low-maintenance creative pursuits that fill my time and keep me from feeling utterly useless.

Things like collaging and (recently) web designing make me feel alright, but the real elation is reserved for when I write something good. There’s nothing like that feeling. So I’m happiest when I’m writing, and writing a lot. I wish I could always be writing, but it doesn’t work like that for me.

I do keep a journal, and I write in it consistently.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone a month without writing a journal entry.  I keep my journal in hardcover Mead composition books, the kind with the black and white marble-y covers (on to which I’ve recently been collaging), and I fill about two of them a year.

I also keep a free writing notebook, which I love the most and recommend to everyone.  I can write anything in it – journal entries, stories, terrible drawings, fragments of fragments, the word “shit” over and over…whatever.  When I’m coming out of a “down” writing cycle, the free writing notebook is typically the first place I go.  I prefer single subject spiral-bound notebooks for these, the cheaper the better, and I alternate cover colors.  There are periods where I knock out these notebooks like an S.U.V. consumes gasoline.  I wrote a novel(la) in them two years ago, one that may never see the light of day, and five or so years ago I used them when I obsessively tried to catalogue every sexual encounter or desire I’d ever had (it took about three notebooks in case you’re wondering).

My computer is a piece of shit HP laptop, which I cling to nevertheless.  I alternate fairly equally between writing by hand and composing on the computer, with a slight edge going to typing.  I love both methods.  Often the computer is a distraction, with the internet being a click away, and I get sick of staring at a lit-up screen.  Paper is handy then.  Revisions I do entirely on the computer.  I use Microsoft Word, which I’m not crazy about, but I tried some hip freeware writing program a couple of years ago and I lost an entire page of writing, something that has never happened to me, ever, with Word, and which felt like a punch to the gut.

I have a desk at home and it’s in the bedroom I share with my boyfriend.  In my last apartment I had an office to myself, which I avoided for months before finally bailing and returning the desk to the bedroom.  My writing space has to be humble or I get intimidated.  Here’s a weird thing:  maybe it’s just lately (because I hate where I live), but I almost never write at home.  I take my laptop to coffee shops (ones in which I don’t have internet access), and in the summer I take my notebook to parks, hillsides, wherever.  Around 75% of Backwoods was written and revised at my local corporate coffee shop.  I almost prefer to write in public with people streaming around me.  I don’t know why this is.  I’m not a show off. It’s just easier to lose myself when there are people around.

When I write in public I listen to music on headphones.  Music choice is important.   I can’t listen to anything “new” when I’m writing, it has to be an album or song I’ve listened to a hundred times so I can zone out.  I prefer instrumentals, the more slow and drone-y the better.  My “drone writing mix” includes Brian Eno, Deerhunter, Pell Mell and Tangerine Dream.  The Dandy Warhols have these great album-closing tracks that last like nine minutes and are nothing but droning noise.  Lately I’ve been listening to two albums in particular when I write:  Spiritualized’s “Lazer Guided Melodies” and the self-titled album by Crystal Stilts.

As for what I write:  a lot of porn, obviously.  I always thought that erotica was the only thing I knew how to write because the story arc was so clear:  the climax is the climax.  I like writing other stuff, though, so much that I’ve included on this very site an “other stories” section, which nobody ever reads.  That’s fine.  But some of my favorite stuff that I’ve written has been non-erotic.  It’s just that I have no idea what to do with it.  Maybe that’s why it takes on a glow in my mind.  It remains personal, untainted, and untested.

In conclusion I’d like to add that this is one of the most endless and narcissistic things I’ve ever written and if you’re still reading, I’m sorry.  I drank a ton of coffee tonight and my synapses are on overdrive, so I blame that.