Friday, March 19, 2010

Writing Habits—Dawn of the Gummy Bear

I probably talk more about my sex life, than I do about my own writing. Okay, not really. But do I have your attention?

Just as there’s this remarkably intimate connection during sex, the bond between the writer and his or her Muse transcends all other personal relationships. For me, when I sit down and face that glowing screen, I know I’m not alone. The fear of writer’s block or a lack of inspiration dissipates into the sweet sound of her voice. I don’t let inspiration become the driving force of my creativity. That's like sitting in a car without gas and expecting to arrive at my destination on time. I write and I write some more, until the words fuse into perfect beads of pearl. When I run out of words, I walk away and find some more.

Now, on to gummy bears. God help me; please don’t start calling me one. I like to eat them while I write. The orange one is my favorite flavor. During my creative process, I don’t drink coffee, consume alcohol, use recreational drugs (prescription drugs is another story). I don’t listen to music. I don’t need absolute silence, and in fact, I enjoy the vibrant echoes of ambient noise. I take notes on napkins, clothing, candy wrappers, the back of my hand; you name it. I use a dictionary, a thesaurus, printed encyclopedias, newspapers, comic books, Playboy, Google; pretty much anything I can reference. I churn out brief story outlines that constantly morph into thirty-five different directions. I don’t slip into mantras, but I do pray to perform at my best. I don’t have a particular time of day or night. I write whenever I can for as long as possible.

I’ll stop now. This is sounding way too much like a personals ad.

In truth, I have no writer friends in the real world. In cyberspace, I have all of you talented and highly regarded writers at my fingertips. We encourage one another, provide feedback, and voice concern when a member of our community seemingly disappears from the virtual world.

You matter to me.

Everyone has their own habits, their own special way of communicating with their Muse.

What’s yours?


  1. I do consume a lot of coffee and the occasional recreational drug. And like you in real life I have no one to talk to about writing, the process, etc, etc. I enjoyed your piece. I always appreciate hearing how other writers write.

  2. I try and being ever-present and aware, really tuned in looking for things that inspire me. It NEVER comes at my desk, always somewhere else and I need to be ready to capture it, I'm almost always with a pad to jot things down.

  3. great post, Angel... My process has me slunched over a laptop on my couch (my back will feel it by 50) usually with the TV on mute... Candles flicker in the fireplace and my gummy bears sometimes come in the form of something in a bottle. Nothing serious... Just enough to ease the day away and start the process. A Sip is all it takes sometimes... Unlike yourself, I usually don't like background noise -- which is odd since I work in a newsroom and thats ALL we have. I like silence... maybe some quiet or soothing instrumental. Music tends to help cultivate my ideas throughout the day like when I drive. I also love photos and if I can find the right one... then the writing comes rather quickly.

  4. Angel, this is a great post. I like how you described the connection with your muse, too true and very attention grabbing.

    Now to answer your question, I don't have any writing habits to speak of. Though when I'm on I write every day, different amounts, but still it's every day. There are times when I fail to even stutter out words, but I always know they will come back when they find a purpose for me. I haven't had many dry spells since I started writing, but I too don't believe in writer's block. I have slumps, but again the words still come out. They just don't make sense. :P

    It's neat to read others habits and helpful to see what they all do, or don't do. For that impeding time when I may start to stress about no writing, but for now I keep on plugging away.

    Happy writing

  5. Angel, wonderful post -- so cool to know your writing 'process'. And gummy bears? Makes me smile, you who look so tough ;^)

    I feel singularly alone in the 'real' world as well; I thank God every day for my cyber friends who understand this thing called writing (and hence, me) better than many flesh-and-bloods.

    I spend early morning at my desk. Sometimes the muse comes, other times not, but I write or edit then. Most of my great ideas come when walking, showering, or falling asleep. I try to capture them, and sometimes, when lucky, I do.

    I wish I had more time to write... Peace, Linda

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  7. Dammit! I was gonna grab my cigarettes…but I quit those years ago. Orange gummy bears? Ha-ha—mine is extra hot Hot Tamales or wasabi peas; I love spicy food, the kind that makes you cough and cry.

    I find it interesting that your muse is a soft-spoken female—the perfect blend: your dark, creative mind rendezvous with the honed passions of the even darker nature of a woman. It is no wonder the results are award-winning, mind-boggling, sexy, dark tales of probably a fairly, normal guy:)

    I do have a thing for my muse, like you said, there is a deep connection there…although mine is sort of a cross between Samuel Jackson and Lewis Black—it wouldn’t make for a good love scene! My family is always a great inspiration to me, because you know—they’re all crazy, but beyond that, music, animals, and nature is where most of my creative process develops. Once a story or an idea solidifies in that special way that sets my muse’s tongue ablaze , I hit the computer and key that sucker out. If the ending or a character hasn’t fully congealed, I’ll set it aside until it does. I have two stories now that have been mocking me for months—even Sam Black is getting pissed at them.

    I have a few writer friends in the real world, though they aren’t serious enough to finish a real story—ever since Facebook, nobody seems to really get anything done anymore, and so I definitely rely on my cyber writing friends. Their stories are important to me—I learn, get inspired, and laugh and cry with them. I know that’s part of what pilots my journey as a writer. Sure, I love to write, but I love to read what others are writing too.

    For the record, I’ll never call you a gummy bear…maybe a bear, or a tad gummy at times, but never together.

  8. Great post Angel. I recently read Stephen King's 'On Writing' and one thing he says in that is "close the door". Well, I've got a 3 and 6 year old. I close the door and they want to know what is going on, so I don't do it. I manage to write in short bursts. 20 minutes here, 40 minutes there, even a sentence while I'm sorting night time milk out before the girls go to bed. I'm self-employed so I alway have a notepad (Recently a camera as well - my latest post.) and I'm always making notes on ideas etc, etc. I'm very spasmodic with my writing at the moment. If I didn't have to work I could quite happily write all day, be it gibberish or not.

    As for gummy bears...I'm a peanut man myself. And if they're "spicy" all the better. Maybe a glass of red wine when the kids are in bed as well...

    Regards mate, David.

  9. What are my writerly habits? A notebook within easy reach, buckets of herbal tea and showing up for work each day. The Muse does the rest (but she also expects me to pull my weight).

  10. Great post, Angel. Now I'm picturing little orange legs sticking out of your mouth--kicking as you chew and chew tiny heads off of bears.

    I have to have silence to write and I usually type my first sentence with my eyes closed. I don't know why. Sometimes, I type the whole paragraph with my eyes closed. I can't write--create--and eat or drink. I have to take breaks away from the computer to do that, if I'm working on a big project. I can eat and drink while checking email and stuff, but not when the machine in my head is firing on all cylinders.

    Sometimes, when I'm lying in bed, my wheels are still spinning so hard--my head actually aches, like the muscle inside is sore from overuse--haha...this is what happens when a dummy thinks too much. If I were a genius with a massive brain muscle, I doubt I'd ever feel "sore."

    My husband has to massage my scalp sometimes to ease the tension...I melt. And if I have really good sex--I can fall right to sleep without my characters harrassing me all night. Bad sex? I'm rambling around at 3am practicing dialogue...until I find the joy toys (I'm joking...maybe)

    I let my husband eat the gummy bears--the green ones. He needs to keep his strength up so I stay sane. I've heard that the green ones work especially well for the type of energy he needs.

    How much of this comment you believe is up to you--I am a fiction writer after all and well...I do like tying into a topic :)

  11. It's a common topic, but being so intimate and flipping through so many items in the writing process was a great way to broach it. I may get down and write a full blog entry on this later, if you don't mind me linking you to it.

    My writing process is pretty eclectic. Years ago I drilled a lot of public shame out of my head so I could talk to myself anywhere. Obviously my blog is primarily composed talking to myself in the bathroom. Last week I visited a friend and composed the first two pages of a short story to myself aloud while I was cooking over the stove. Rambling freely gives me access to whatever ideas I please whenever the muse strikes. I take a notebook to me most places and when I don't have taken notes on recycled paper, the inside of cereal boxes in the checkout line, and a couple of times on the inside of my arm. Free-talking and the skeletal notes get the ideas together.

    I sit down to the computer with them and get pretty serious. I will flip out if someone calls, knocks or IM's - even though it's always my fault in the last place for starting writing before closing GMail. I'm a very moody, hypocritical composer. Unlike you, Angel, I need music to block out the rest of the world from distracting me. However I will often let an album finish and not notice for another or two, not even hittin the PLAY button to queue it back up. Once I'm in the writing state, I don't need as much defense against the rest of the world.

    I don't snack while I write. Most of the time I couldn't - I'll emerge from writing without appetite, sometimes without appetite for the entire day afterwards. Another part of the mind takes over pretty deeply. I may drink, though if I do I only drink water. If I drink, I may go through an entire pitcher. Always have been a big water drinker, and it's also a time-delayed excuse to go to the bathroom, where I can talk a scene or patch of dialogue out to myself without having to look at the text itself. The physical divide is very handy there.

  12. Angel, a great post and something I don't really know much about.
    You said "I churn out brief story outlines that constantly morph into thirty-five different directions." and I am a bit like that. Can take me days before I work out where the story is going and then be happy with it.

    David Barber said that his writing is sporadic. So is mine. From being self-employed during the day to being a single parent of a teenage boy every other moment, I either don't find the time or am too tired to bother.

    What I do find, though, is early morning is my favourite time to write. Ideas seem to gel better in the hours before dawn. Maybe cos there are no distractions.

    Inspirations are usually customers at work. Everyone has a story, a history...and they are quite happy to share with me most of the time. It is amazing the types of jobs and situations others have been in and I find that is useful to me.

  13. I’ve learned quite a number of interesting things about you all. Thanks for sharing.

    Cody— Keep flying…er…writing high.

    Michael— I agree. You can’t always sit at your desk and expect the story to come to you. Sometimes you got to get out there and find it.

    Anthony— Liquid gummy bears sound so…fluid. The use of photos is a brilliant way of sparking new characters and story ideas.

    K— Yes! Writing every day IS the best habit.

    Linda— Oh, don’t you hate when those best-seller ideas strike just before falling asleep and we’re just too lazy to get up and write them down? So many lost stories…

    Erin— A cross between Samuel Jackson and Lewis Black…damn! Lol…now that’s a voice. I wish nature served as a source of creative energy for me, but I’m more of a concrete and brick kind of guy. You’re so right about Facebook. We’ve lost too many great writers to Farmville and Café World…God rest their souls. Keep chomping those hot tamales. It’s definitely working for you.

    David— Ah, children and closing that office door. I know this too well. No sooner than I sit down to write, everyone in the house has a question for daddy and the knocking begins. Spicy peanuts sound yummy.

    Ali— A handy notebook has saved my life at times. But damn, if I’m not constantly looking for a misplaced pen.

    Paula— I always eat my gummy bears head first. It keeps my teeth safe from the violent thrashing of their twitching bodies. I love the idea of writing with your eyes closed. That’s supreme focus. I thought only men were supposed to fall asleep directly after sex? And bad sex…I’ve never had that, though you may want my wife’s opinion.

    John— I know exactly what you mean about talking to yourself. My wife is always asking me, “What’d you say, hun?” Of which I must constantly respond, “Oh, sorry. Just talking to myself.” The questioning look from her has grown tamer over the years, but there is still the staring and the squinting of eyes. I laughed when you wrote about flipping out when someone calls or IMs. I too lose my mind. I take it so personal, like “This person doesn’t want me to write. The SOB.” The bathroom works so well for you. Keep sitting and creating…words, that is.

    Paul— I’m sure all of those personalities walking through your business have given you some fantastic characters. I wish I had more time to write early in the morning. I feel I write better in the hours before dawn as well.

  14. I agree with your view of cyber writer friends, you all seem more real to me.

    I write in silence (with a waterfall running in the background). People noise doesn't work well for my muse.

  15. This is great, Angel. I’ve just read Anne Tyler Lord’s article on how the creative flow of writing is like good sex. Both require letting go of one self, inhibitions, and giving complete surrender. I think this is where that seductive, intense relationship with one’s muse comes in. I’ve always thought of my muse as male, I call him the Hobo Prince. If I chase after him he will never come, so I think of ways of seducing him to me. I let anything and everything inspire me throughout the day. I do not judge my thoughts; I simply let them be. I let the Hobo Prince choose what he wants, how he wants it. When he and I come together at night to write it out, it’s complete orgasmic magic.

    I can see how biting off body parts and sucking the sugar out of them inspires everything from the succulent to the horror in your stories, Angel. Gummy Bears – who would have thought? I also find it interesting how you know when to walk away from writing. You give yourself & your lovely muse freedom. I think this is important for good flow.

    The way I write, I never know what is going to happen next. NEVER. It can be something as simple as hearing a song lyric, that reminds me of a fairy tale, that reminds me of a tiny detail I can steal away into my own reality and blow it up into a story. I also find that my past experiences come into play. My goal is to relate to the audience and carry them along the experiences with me in the most entertaining manner, whether by horror or dark fantasy.

    Everyday life people don’t understand that urgent need to create. It’s as important as breathing. Perhaps, in some way, we’d die without it. Being connected to all of you creative sorts, wherever you are throughout the world, is invaluable. Just reading all your writing styles here, fills me up and makes me smile. I love learning how other creative minds tick. And hot damn do you guys and girls tick.

  16. Thanks for kicking off a great discussion. I've pointed others to this article in my own post here.

    I personally have a very simple method. I write first drafts long-hand. I write almost always on old A4 sized hard cover business diaries. These are fantastic: the hard cover and binding are great, the pages are thick and lined, and they have a buit-in ribbon bookmark. Every year around the office there is always an oversupply of old diaries. To most people, a 2006 has no value.

    Writing longhand may seem archaic, but the bottle-neck effect of slowing the process means the rest of my head can process what the next word is going to be for a little bit longer. The other advantage is that I can take this process anywhere, and there's no battery to run down. The final advantage is that somehow it works for me, and I get better words out.

  17. Isn't this cool that you have so many people to write back to you? I have thought about writing a blog before, but then I thought who would want to read it? I guess I feel that way about my writing most of the time, but I just keep doing it anyway. I have a special place in my heart for sourpatch kids.

    Amy Corbin

  18. It's cool to know that your writing is fueled by gummy-bears. Far better than all our computer code which, if legend is correct, is fueled by energy drinks and pizza. I do like the sense of ambient sound, napkin notes and printed encyclopedias. Cool post, Angel.

  19. @Amy: Just write it, and they will come. Actually they might not, but it doesn't matter. If you're going to write a blog it's got to be for yourself. Like writing a journal, and not minding if other people read it, and scribble their comments on it.

  20. More or less the same as yours minus the gummy bears

  21. I guess the gummy bears is better than other options. I'm a tobacco addict, not smoking, but using snuff (moist, snus), and I hav been using it for 30 years now, impossible to quit, unfortunately >:)