Preparing to Write

As a writer and an English major, I spend a lot of time at my desk. Whether I’m sitting in front of the computer or a notebook with some pens randomly scattered on my desk, I am always in my black leather chair whenever I’m home. Having certain constant circumstances is actually very important to me, so I decided that this week I’m going to share what my writing preparation looks like.

First, I always try and have some food or beverage. What that food is changes, but I always have something. A few summers ago, my go-to food was Flamin Hot Cheetos and Dove dark chocolate. It was an odd combination, but it helped me come up with some of my best ideas for poetry. Over this winter, I would make a glass of hot chocolate and sip that while pounding out words on my keyboard.

I also usually have some type of music playing. I’ve found that the type of music I’m listening to can affect how I write and influence the underlying tones, so I try to think about what music I’m actually choosing to listen to. If I’m working on my poetry book, I listen to soft acoustic music. If I’m working on school assignments, I like to listen to the Star Wars soundtracks. After awhile, I’m so focused on my writing that I don’t even realize that there is music playing anyways.

Some people want a clutter-free desk when they write, but that’s never really possible with me. My computer is always on one side, and the clutter is stacked up beside me. Sometimes it’s homework, and sometimes I pull books from my own little personal library and use them as reference while I’m writing, so they’re open and stacked on the desk near me. I have my planner and other office supplies that I occasionally use to jot down ideas or brainstorms while I’m writing. The clutter doesn’t bother me though; in fact, I’m so used to it that I like it when I write.

I also normally write at night. I’m a night owl, so that’s when I’m most productive. Plus, I get to write in comfortable clothes or pajamas because I’m probably not going to go out that night. I’ve also found that some of my best ideas and inspiration come at night, specifically one minute before I fall asleep, so I have to roll out of bed and write it down somewhere because I know that I won’t remember it in the morning. Everytime it happens, I try to convince myself that I’ll be able to remember it when I wake up, but I never can.

When it comes to how I actually write, it depends on what I’m writing. If it’s for homework, I get really distracted and end up on Facebook and Twitter trying to find motivation to start the assignment. If I’m excited about it, it takes me no time at all. This article, for example, took me only about thirty minutes to write when I finally decided what I was going to write about this week. My writing is something I’m passionate about, so it wasn’t difficult to find the words to describe my process. However, if it’s personal writing, like my poetry book, I sit down and write the first sentence or line at least twenty times because I’m writing it and then deleting it right afterwards. I’m such a perfectionist that if the beginning isn’t perfect, I can’t move forward. I know that it’s a bad habit, but that’s how it goes. Once I get past the beginning and finish the piece, I then immediately go back over it and fix whatever little things jump out at me. I then send it to some of my close friends who will help me edit it. (That’s one of my favorite things about being an English major; we cultivated this little group of editors to help each other grow as writers.)

As a writer, I think it’s important to have a routine and a process. It helps you get into a certain state of mind, knowing that when you sit down at the desk you’re going to crank something out. Even if you have no inspiration or think you have no good ideas, it’s important to sit down and write down something-- anything. Getting something down on the page is better than nothing.



Alyssa Harmon