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How do you write?

Each person has their own way to get into the spirit of writing. Sometimes it requires a little prep time or a stress free day. I’ve noticed many people have their favorite writing music, spots and even medium. I’ll give a rundown of how I like to do it (heh) and I’d love some comments to know what you guys do.

My Medium

Writing itself is hardly written anymore. The irony (is it actually ironic?) is that most people don’t actually write anymore. They type. My current medium of choice is a pretty nice Toshiba laptop. That itself has been a double-edged sword for me. It does mean that I can write anywhere, but that also means I can get distracted anywhere. All of my best writing to date has been done at my old desktop when I was locked in my room.

Does anyone use pen and paper anymore? It certainly has a charm to it. I would say it is certainly the best way to read. Maybe I’m old-fashioned like that. I even have professors telling me that books are going to make the move to the internet too. Especially thanks to devices like the Kindle. It’s book sized. The resolution is supposed to be better then any computer screen you’ve used. I still like paper.

Writing music

In this new media age, with most people writing on the computer, you can’t deny the ease of access of music. Most of my writer friends, and myself, can not resist opening up itunes while writing. Music has that power to put you in the right mood or totally distract you. I’ve tried writing school papers with my ipod on shuffle. Let’s just say Metallica isn’t the best thing to listen to while doing academic papers.

The best writing music

For me, nothing is better to listen to while writing then the band Explosions in the Sky. It’s hard to explain their sound, so I think it’s best that you listen to them yourself. They are great at drowning out the world and making me feel emotional about what I’m writing. Their music makes everything you do, no matter how mundane, feel important and grandiose.

Some old school Smashing Pumpkins and underground hiphop (Talib Kweli, Deltron 3030, Madvillian) help to round out my playlists.

Location, Location, Location

There’s only two places that I can get my best quality writing done: my computer desk in my room and my school’s library. Some suggestions on location would be great. When the weather breaks I’m going to try taking my laptop out on the patio and spend an evening out there writing.

This is a really open-ended post. I’m hoping for a lot of feedback and a good conversation or two to spring out of this.

7 Responses

  1. I make my living as a physician. When I first began to write, I was always too analytical.

    I did better when I played my mandolin. I would play tunes until I got out of doctor mode and into a creative thought process. Then I would write as fast as I could.

    Will see how it works out.

  2. When I was in college, I did almost all of my paper writing on a typewriter. I count myself as part of the last generation to have had used typewriters before they finally went the way of the 8-track or betamax tapes.

    In those days, and earlier, when I wrote stories I always wrote by hand in spiral notebooks. I don’t write that way anymore, though. In fact, I can’t imagine writing a novel by hand anymore — it seems so unnatural. For one thing, it’s too slow. Yes, sometimes I need to take my time to think through a scene, but more often I’m in a hurry to get my words out. Typing on a word processor is much better for me.

    But the biggest difference between writing by hand and writing on a word processor is that I am no longer bound by the linear requirements of writing by hand. Before, when I wrote a story, I always had to start at the beginning and proceed until I reached the end. Word processors give me the opportunity to jump around — to write the last chapter first if I want. That too seems like a more natural way to write, because when I’m writing a novel, I don’t always necessarily have the plot completely in place. There are always gaps in the narrative that have yet to be filled in. Word processors also eliminate writer’s block, because if I can’t think of a way to finish a chapter, I can just go and work on another chapter until I’ve solved the problem.

    (It looks like you’re putting together an interesting blog here. I’ll be starting a new blog of my own in a few days, and I think I might just link to you if you’ll continue the interesting posts!)

  3. Thanks for the good comments so far. The best thing about this blog so far has been the unity of published and unpublished writers. I’m glad everyone is enjoying the blog, you’re encouraging me to update more often.

    Believe it or not, I used a typewriter for a paper myself. I’ve never had the best handwriting and I had used a typewriter to do a paper in elementary school. Getting our first computer in 1995 was life changing.

  4. Nice post, Nick. I think a lot of us enjoy reading about how others write. And talking about our own process.

    So here’s what I like to do. First, I like to take care of all the little nit-picky errands I have to do for the day and clear off my desk. I can’t seem to write if I’ve got a to-do pile a mile high sitting next to my mouse. I give myself a time frame so it doesn’t suck up my whole day. Often, I’ll give myself an hour and then I’ll stuff the rest in a drawer and take the dog for a walk. This is important for me–I like to clear my head, get a breath of fresh air, and see the world through a different set of eyes for a little bit.

    I do all of my writing on my kitchen computer. When I get home from the walk, I’ll put on my favorite playlist (a huge compilation of Bob Marley, Michael Franti, and mixed CDs made by wonderful dancer and upright guy named Eric Fenn) and often I’ll start thinking about my writing while I start something on the stove. It’s comforting for me to have a pot bubbling away while I write. I love the process of cooking and the process of writing, the smells that circle the kitchen, and the little breaks (and tastes) I get by standing up every few minutes to stir the pot.

    Of course, this means that I usually write on the days that I can afford to work from home. I rarely write in the office. Except for recommendation letters or emails blog comments. (Which are both opportunities for storytelling, I think, but not nearly so enjoyable.)

    I do have a wonderful fountain pen I use everyday for everything. And I always have a moleskine journal around that I seem to have no trouble filling up. I find myself jotting notes on the bus or wherever I am. In fact, that’s where I planned our 407 class last year months before the syllabus ever got put together.

  5. Most of the writing I do for my classes (papers and such) and things of that nature I do on my computer, simply because it’s faster and easier to use.

    But I do still take notes in class the old-fashioned way. This is partly because I’m too lazy to drag my old, heavy laptop to class every day, but it’s also because there’s something nostalgic about writing by hand. I like writing. I don’t even care what it is that I’m writing about. As long as I get to do it by hand, I enjoy it a little more than I do sitting in front of the computer.

    I write all of my poetry and entries into my personal journal exclusively by hand, because they’re thoughts that go directly from my head through the pen and onto the page, and that makes me feel like an accomplished writer. It’s an incredible feeling that I don’t exactly know how to describe, but I do prefer hand-writing on those occasions.

  6. I think a plug for National Novel Writing month ( would fit the theme of this blog. Their forum page has interesting discussions on the when/where/how of fiction writing as well as questions like which soundtrack (if any).
    Personally I need a musical background but I find myself distracted by vocals so it must be instrumental – ambient drones are good as is post rock.
    I make notes in moleskin books while I’m on the move but I always write on a PC for two main reasons (a) it’s legible (b) I can move the text around easily. The main disdavantage is that I’m a slow at typing so my fingers aren’t always quick enough to keep up with my thoughts!

  7. What a great post. I’m going to take a page from your blog and ask my readership about their blog reading environment.

    I spend a lot of time on public transportation buses and light rail trains. I also spent a lot of time in class. Whenever I’m writing, its on a notepad. I have incorporated making sure I have a notepad and pen in my back pocket into my morning routine.

    As for writing for pleasure or even for academia, I find that the laptop works best. With the inclusion of the internet, I can even check my AP style.

    My writing environment generally consists of a nook in Cook, or the desk in my room. Lighting is key. I generally don’t write when I’m listening to music, though I will periodically stop writing every 15-20 minutes and listen to a song while I drink a cup of hot tea or a glass crammed with crushed ice and topped with Wild Turkey like the good doctor recommends.

    My tastes in music are always changing but today, I broke at the page and tuned into:

    Notorious B.I.G. – Gimme The Loot
    Ice Cube – Check Yo Self
    Black Sabbath – Faeries Wear Boots
    Creedence Clearwater Revival – Who’ll Stop The Rain
    The Rolling Stones – Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

    88.1 FM Jazz music after 9 p.m. artists unknown

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