Turn Around, I Forgot The Pig: Superstitions, Charms,
and How We Trick Ourselves Into Writing
by Michelle Moore and S. Reesa Herberth
While I doubt that any of us are as bad as professional sports players (I, for one, have never worn the same underwear for a week!), we writers have our quirks. Quirks, idiosyncrasies, traditions… superstitions. Okay, we don’t really like to call them superstitions. That makes us sound so, well, superstitious. But I suspect everyone has some sort of a process they go through to get ready to write.
Like me, for an example. Before I settle in for an evening of productivity, I slip into a gold lame tuxedo jacket, braid some chameleon tails (naturally lost, of course) in my hair, and peddle a unicycle around the dining room table. Okay, not really. But there was a time when I couldn’t write a word without a bowl of Crunchy M&Ms at my side. Imagine my dismay and horror when Mars discontinued them. It wasn’t pretty.
Now that I have two novels under my belt, what’s my course of action? Am I as shortsighted in my choices? Well, as long as Starbucks stays solvent, I should be okay. Five days a week, I pack up my purple Dell mini, my purple thumb drive, my “Working Writer’s Daily Planner” and my little stuffed guinea pig and head to the neighborhood Starbucks. I do not leave without the pig. Let me repeat. Do. Not. Forget. The. Pig.
There are two acceptable tables, the preferred one is next to the mug display. The computer goes in the middle of the table, the planner goes on the window ledge, and the pig goes on the right hand side of the computer, sitting on top of my phone. Centered on top of my phone. I order the same drink, grande Java Chip Frappacino with four pumps peppermint and six scoops chips, and that goes on the left hand side of the computer on a napkin. Then and only then am I ready to write.
I’m insecure and I need some validation. Surely I’m not the only person out there with so many, err, issues. Help Michelle feel better about herself. Share some craziness. (Talking about yourself in the third person is not a requirement.)
It only stands to reason that since Michelle and I write the same stories, and work at the same time, we’d have similar writing jinxes. I don’t -need- a grande skim caramel macchiato to write, but I’m not saying I’d ever turn one down. As outlined above, I clearly have to jockey for space on the table, but I’ve been known to bring my own little touchstones with me, namely a squishy pineapple stress toy that feels nice and bumpy in my hand when I need a moment of clarity.
That’s about it though, as far as similarities go. Michelle, to my horror, rarely even brings her mp3 player, much less turns in on. (But when she does, she has M&M earbuds to wear. Don’t front- you know you’re a little jealous.) I hardly ever turn mine off, whether I’m working from a playlist I’ve set up for the story I’m writing, or just randomly tripping through the 9,000+ tracks I feel are vital to my continued aural happiness. I can’t listen to an album I’m not familiar with when I’m writing. It has to be something I already know, and it has to be music that will fade into a wash of sound, or I’ll find myself working lyrics into my dialogue.
She requires a mix of semi-live background noise- if not the other denizens of the local coffee shop, then at least the TV. If you turn a television on near me when I’m trying to write, it’s all over. The only time I have ever paid attention to football was when I should have been writing, and someone flipped the game on in the same room. Flickering pictures are my kryptonite. And Home Goods, but let’s not talk about my affection for occasional tables and hat boxes.
I watched a special on Stephen King years ago, where he revealed that he did his writing in a stark white room with no music, no TV, and if I recall, not even a window. This was before every toaster came Bluetooth-enabled and wifi-ready, so I assume that Mr. King wasn’t using his typewriter to access the internet. I remember thinking at the time that there was no way I could work in an environment like that, devoid of any kind of visual inspiration or catchy beat to tap my toe along with. Now, I’m not so sure. I write faster, cleaner prose with nothing else going on around me. My room is on the fourth floor of the house, situated practically in the branches of a huge cherry tree, and in the afternoon, I can sit in my chaise lounge and pound the words out, just me and the breeze, and maybe a handful of songs I’ve heard hundreds of times before to play buffer between me and the noises that might distract me.
I’m sometimes amazed that Michelle and I can find any common ground at all in our mutual quirks, but five days a week, we sally forth to torment our favourite barista, and we both manage to create the environment we need to be productive. It’s all in what works- and luckily, the guinea pig and the pineapple have learned to co-exist as happily as we have. Except when we get the tiny table- then it’s every woman, cavy, and edible bromeliad for themselves!
Michelle Moore and S. Reesa Herberth are the co-authors of the Ylendrian Empire series, an inspired mix of space opera, romance, action, and humor. Their latest release is The Slipstream Con, available now through Samhain Publishing.
Michelle and Reesa live and write in Virginia, near a cherry tree, and the best Starbucks in the world. You can find them online at:
Psst! The Mermaid Journal contest (see a picture of the prize here) continues through tomorrow! Be sure to comment for another chance to win! ~DD