Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On Pilgrimages

My habits are changing. Not the Velma-ish one of patting the floor beside the bed in the morning to find glasses my cat has shoved off the nightstand. Not the one where stress triggers me to make lists about my lists. Nor how my most hated chore--matching socks--translates into my family's morning pilgrimage to the holy basket for the day's offering. No, my writing habits are entering an entirely different season I don't understand.

I traced the change back to the point of "laptop acquisition". Suddenly the prospect of being away from my desk didn't mean scribbled thoughts or pages that subtracted from my keyed-in time. With the newfound freedom, my optimum work environment changed. Where once I required silence to be creative, I find myself craving more of an audio/visual backdrop.

Last week, I trekked off to a local library. Not the kind at the epicenter of a young family community where kid's voices blast through the quiet followed by parents' insistent "shhh"s. This library attracts the bridge crowd. The only noise rising up through the stacks is the creaking of orthopedic shoes. In a cubicle in the back, the only thing I could focus on was biker Moses six cubbies down grooming his beard in deep thought. Total, yet non-functional, silence.

Two days later, I migrated to an alternate coffee shop. I didn't want to become one of those "Norms" of Starbucks where the indie worker belts out your order the minute the bells over the door chime. So I started a pattern of writing migrations, unrecognizable to anyone but me. Does anyone else do this? Even though I sit at the same table every time because I know which way the sun slants after I've been there three hours or which chairs sink me to the carpal-tunnel-inducing position of wrists between knees, God forbid anyone remember what day I was last there.

On this day, the sky had opened. The rain was loud enough to hear over the Satellite radio playing an endless stream of John-Denver-esque-relationship-torture songs. The focus light above warmed me almost as much as the beverage in hand. And I wrote more in those hours than I had in ages.

Now, I sit at my desk most late nights, the intermittent humming of my hard drive the only sound trickling through the house, and feel uninspired. Spoiled for the day I sat watching headlights creep through the downpour and heard the lyrics and melody to a song so powerful, it could have been the soundtrack for my heroine's struggle. Instead of the notes about notes that have clogged my desk since I made my almighty 2008 declarations last month, I'd rather hover around a circular table, just large enough to fit my keyboard and my thoughts.

Scary prospect--that I'll slip into the habit of only being able to write away from my desk. The rituals of writers are strange bedfellows. Necessary shortcuts to our subconscious, but binding in a way we can't understand.

How have your rituals evolved over the years?


Sandra Ferguson said...

I love when Mary's home and I can swipe her laptop.

You're right. It is freeing. Even to just change rooms can sometimes completely and totally alter the feel of the WIP.

Todd Wheeler said...

I say do what works. It's hard enough figuring that out to begin with. Though, the Starbucks bill over time seems daunting.

I think if I had a laptop it would spoil me for home as well.

I used to write at 5 am (completely useless in the evening) but now have more time during the day. Mornings are still the most productive for me.